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Center Stage: ‘The Agitators’ highlights friendship between Douglass, Anthony

By Staff | Feb 6, 2019

Marsha Wagner

A brand-new production has been wowing audiences locally at Bill Taylor’s Theatre Conspiracy, located at the Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers. The local premiere of Mat Smart’s hard-hitting play, titled “The Agitators. The two-hour-long two-people play links life-altering events and historical periods – the Reconstruction period and the years immediately following the Civil War, and the two larger-than-life leaders who experienced them: Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony.

Personally, I never knew of the deep, blustery decades-long friendship between Douglass, played by Derek Lively, and Susan B. Anthony, played by Dena Galyean. The performances of Lively and Galyean are nuanced yet powerful, making their characters believable as the headstrong leaders battle racism and social inequality. A great deal of credit for crafting the realistic characterizations belongs to the subtle direction by Taylor, who – I might add – is also responsible for designing the imaginative, inventive minimalist scenery. What resonates with this well performed, impressively written and effectively directed play is that we must all listen to each other respectfully. Words and emotional content does content. Unfortunately, we still haven’t learned to speak or listen thoughtfully.

You might have missed the well produced, impressively acted performance of “The Agitators,” but whatever you do don’t miss “Marian, or the True Tale of Robin Hood” by Adam Szymkowicz. It is playing next at the Theatre Conspiracy on Feb. 7-17. So, be sure and get your tickets by phoning 239-939- 2787. When you phone, remind ’em Marsha sent you.