Earlier this month, we hosted a community workshop at The Hudson Area Library to offer residents and students an opportunity to explore the history of and issues raised by The Mother of Us All in conjunction with its sold out run at Hudson Hall at the Historical Hudson Opera House. The workshop, Looking at the Issues, was co-facilitated by Bard educator Delia Mellis and interdisciplinary artist and teacher Tanisha Christie.

The workshop was attended by adults and teenagers alike and gave participants a lot to think about in regard to gender issues, feminism, voting rights, abolitionism, and power dynamics. As Tanisha put it:

Tanisha Christie (standing) & Delia Mellis (seated)

“We spent a lot of time in the workshop sharing the historical context in which the opera was created via both Susan B. Anthony’s and Gertrude Stein’s perspectives. But we also focused on relating the work to our current political climate, particularly talking about definitions of feminism (past and present) and how gender and race intersect. Everyone was so engaged and vulnerable in their sharing!”

Delia agreed. “The participants were really game and came with kind of a perfect range of interests — Stein herself and modern art, voting rights, opera, women’s history, racial politics. There was so much to talk about. It was a thrill to work with Tanisha. We’d never met but it felt like we’d been working together for years, and I definitely learned as much — from her and the participants — as I taught.”

Tanisha was equally moved. “Delia is such an extraordinary collaborator. We had just met on this project, but it felt like we’ve known each other for years. This workshop was one of the most impact-filled, inter-generational conversations I’ve had in a while.”

Thank you Delia and Tanisha for such a potent and rich afternoon!

This workshop and all related materials were created in conjunction with educator/authors Emily Abendroth, Danniel Schoonebeek and Simone White, with generous leadership from Erica Kaufman, Director of Faculty & Curriculum Development, Institute for Writing & Thinking at Bard College; and Joan Retallack, dramaturge of The Mother of Us All and John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Professor Emerita of Humanities at Bard.

About the production: To mark the centenary of the Women’s Suffrage Movement and the re-opening of New York State’s oldest surviving theater, Hudson Hall in partnership with The Millay Colony for the Arts commissioned a new production of Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein’s rarely performed opera The Mother of Us All. Using real and imagined characters, The Mother of Us All is about Susan B. Anthony and the Women’s Suffrage Movement in America, which began in upstate New York. Anthony spoke multiple times from the very stage where this opera is being performed.

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