Playwright Ain Gordon Tells Hidden Stories of Philadelphia’s Movement Towards Civil Rights

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Ain Gordon is an Obie award-winning playwright and actor currently in residence at Painted Bride Art Center in conjunction with Place Philadelphia, an eighteen month project at the Bride intended to unearth unknown stories of the city to share with the community through the Bride’s tradition of collaborative experiential art.  Place Philadelphia culminates this April with Gordon’s world premiere theatrical production If She Stood about the abolition movement of women in the 1830s in the transformative moment they chose to stand for human rights as well as the implications of those actions for future women and people altogether.

This four woman show features actresses Melanye Finister, Janis Dardaris, Stacey Sargeant, and Kim Martin-Cotten depicting such historical figures as Sarah Mapps Douglass and Angelina Weld Grimké.

Earlier this week, Ain sat down for the PGC blog and answered some questions about his experience creating If She Stood.  Check it out.

Q: Why did you write a show about the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society?

Ain: To me, these women are artists.  That’s my interest in them.  They are inventing themselves (at a time when women were in large part not supposed to have a “self”) and inventing the language and morals of their causes (abolition and women’s rights).  Really “inventing” – not just re-organizing – there was almost no precedent for their creation.  I became interested in what I perceived to be there constant self-interrogation, their refusal of ease, of anything that would lull them away from the precipice of action.

Q: You have used history to drive other theatrical productions.  What is unique about If She Stood as compared to your other work?

Ain: I don’t think I think about the word “unique.”  I can’t sit down to write with that in mind. I know I’ve never before looked at the women’s movement (or “women’s question” as it was then called) or abolition, or this part of the 19th century.  I’ve never before tried to consider what drives someone to sacrifice his or her personal life for public good.

Q: I imagine some playwrights would be unnerved by using history to specifically inspire a contemporary piece of theater.  What is your creative process like?  What about the research process of If She Stood inspired you?

Ain: I fully admit I take “creative liberties.” I look for figures of history that have left enough trace to tantalize and been enough obscured to give me unbound permission.  I want to invent based on the remaining crumbs of truth.

Q: What about our readers?  How will this work relate to the LGBTQ community?


Ain: These women stood against the wrongs of their time; many of which still go on or have returned in recent years.  The last women to speak, in my mind as a gay man, are ancestors of the LGBTQ community.

If She Stood runs April 26th-28th, May 3rd-5th 8 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays.  Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 day of show and are available online or through the box office Tues.-Sat. 12 p.m.-6p.m. 215.925.9914, 230 Vine St. Philadelphia, PA 19106.  If She Stood is funded by the Pew Center for the Arts and Heritage and is funded in part by the National Performance Network Residency Program.  If She Stood is part of the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts 2013.  

For more information on all Place Philadelphia events, visit or read the project’s blog

Read Related Posts...