Lynn Paddy as Harriet Beecher Stowe.
‘Influential Women of History’
Kirk Players, Cuneo Mansion and Gardens, 1350 N. Milwaukee Ave., Vernon Hills
“Harriet Beecher Stowe,” 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24; “Letters from the Oregon Trail,” 2 p.m. Sunday, March 24; “Meet Emily Dickinson,” 2 p.m. Sunday, April 21
$48 for series package, $36 for any two shows, $20 single show in advance, $25 single show performance day
(847) 521-6192; www.kirkplayers.org
Updated: March 24, 2013 6:03AM
Audiences will take a tour of history — with three stops — when Kirk Players presents “Influential Women of History” at the Cuneo Mansion and Gardens in Vernon Hills.
Artistic Director Paddy Lynn stars in the series, which begins on Feb. 24, with her portrayal of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Lynn created that piece a few years ago at the request of the people who run the historic Naper Settlement in Naperville. “The more I researched her, the more I realized this is another influential woman who rose up against all odds and was focused on her mission,” Lynn said. “She believed her mission in life was to write a book that would change the way that people viewed slavery. It was an inspiring story for me. This woman’s story is incredibly valuable.”
Lynn did extensive research in order to create her hour-long piece on Stowe, including reading, A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which the author wrote to substantiate the veracity of the story she told in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
“She was tired of hearing people say that Uncle Tom’s Cabin was fiction,” Lynn related. “She wanted to make sure that everybody could fully understand why she called it, ‘a mosaic of fact.’ ”
In addition to honoring Stowe’s mission, Lynn honors another of Stowe’s wishes by wearing a period-perfect silk dress. That’s because Lynn discovered that when the author finished her book, “She prayed that the book would bring peace to the nation. She also prayed that she would have enough money to buy herself a silk dress.”
Lynn becomes a pioneer woman for the second selection, “Letters from the Oregon Trail,” which will be presented on March 24.
“The Oregon Trail piece has probably been with me for the past 13 years,” Lynn said. “That was one of the first pieces I wrote when I started doing my story-acting business. My friend Bobbi LaBelle has done it with me all these years.”
Lynn originally created that piece for presentation to school groups because she recalled that when she was a child, she remembered more vividly presentations by costumed characters than she did anything her teacher told her.
Lynn now performs the show for grown-ups too, because, “The more I talked to people about it, the more I realized that adults were fascinated by some of the stories,” she said.
The final selection in the series on April 21, which Kirk Players calls, “Meet Emily Dickinson,” is actually an excerpt from William Luce’s one-woman play about the poet, “The Belle of Amherst.” Lynn performed this show a dozen times at the Cuneo in 2005 and 2006.
The Emily Dickinson portrayal is the only one of the three that Lynn did not create herself. “When I was introduced to the play, I thought it was so magically-written,” she explained. “It seamlessly weaves the poetry into the stories. Quite honestly, with her level of genius, I was a bit intimidated at the thought of writing something myself. I didn’t think that I would be able to capture the true essence of Emily Dickinson as this playwright did. I’m very happy to pay the royalties on this because he deserves every penny of it.”
Lynn reported that many audience members are inspired by hearing the story of Dickinson. “People will say, ‘I can’t wait to reread her poetry.’ I find that happens with ‘Harriet,’ too.” People who attend that show sometimes tell Lynn, “You’ve inspired me to read Uncle Tom’s Cabin again.”