The woman who famously said, “You have put me in here a cub but I will come out roaring like a lion, and I will make all hell howl,” is raising some more hell at Red Eye Theater.
The show, a rock musical, is “Hatchet Lady” and it has two central characters, both played by Maren Ward. One is Frances, a biographer, and the other is Frances’ subject, anti-alcohol-crusading feminist Carrie Nation, who famously used a hatchet to bust up saloons when she couldn’t convince politicians to close them down.
Intemperate when it came to temperance, Nation was way ahead of her time and is a fun character to play, Ward said in an interview before closing night of the show, written by playwright Savannah Reich and composer Luc Parker and produced by Walking Shadow Theatre.
Q: How do those two characters fit together?
A: The main character is writing a biography of Carrie Nation and ends up having kind of a meltdown, partly because she questions everything she is doing with her life, starting with why she’s writing a biography of someone who does something, rather than doing something herself.
Q: How did you get involved?
A: Savannah and I have worked together a bunch, and we would have conversations about activism tactics. I know that was part of her inspiration: At what point do you put a hatchet behind your convictions?
Q: What have you discovered about why Carrie Nation picked up her hatchet?
A: She had her heart broken by alcohol. Her first husband was an alcoholic and he died. And there’s a piece about how much abuse was happening at the time, because of alcohol, and her being really angry about that. Add to that that she had the feeling that God was telling her to do this. She was on a mission and she believed she had God’s endorsement.
Q: She was driven by religious zeal?
A: There are a lot of parallels between alcohol and religion in the play, both as vehicles for trying to get at something real. But are they actually real? Or are they standing in the pathway of something real?
Q: Do you think Carrie Nation still speaks to us, more than a century after she died?
A: There’s a speech about alcohol and the role it plays in many of our lives, how it’s a poisonous substance that many of us choose to drink, anyway. Why is that? Is it maybe because we enjoy being on the edge of death? “Maybe we want to be a little dead” is the way it’s put in the play. And the finale song, “Angel of Destruction,” asks: What are you holding onto that needs to be smashed? What needs to be broken? It’s a call to find those parts of ourselves, and our society, that need to go.
Who: By Savannah Reich, music by Luc Parker. Directed by John Heimbuch for Walking Shadow Company.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thu.-Sat., 10 p.m. Fri. Ends Dec. 16
Where: Red Eye Theater, 15 W. 14th. St., Mpls. Tickets: $15-$26, walkingshadowcompany.org