April 19, 2016 marked the 100 year anniversary of the passage of Alberta’s Act for Equal Suffrage. To mark the occasion, The Alberta League Encouraging Storytelling (TALES) developed a traveling storytelling piece wherein costumed storytellers told the story of the fight for women’s suffrage in Alberta—in character! We caught up with TALES’ Renee Englot about her experience with the project.
Describe your project in five words.
Suffragettes live and in costume!
What gave you the idea for the project?
I attended a storytelling workshop that encouraged tellers to look for important anniversaries in their community. I’d already done work on the Famous Five and the Persons Case and so when I realized the centennial of women’s suffrage in Alberta was coming up I was excited about the idea of sharing our suffragerres’ stories. My fellow TALES members were enthusiastic and supportive.
What challenges did you face—and what did you learn—throughout the project?
We were surprised at the difficulties we faced in sourcing costuming locally. We ended up leaning heavily on personal contacts after lengthy searches turned up no leads.
There’s also the challenge of balancing how much factual information you can fit in without overwhelming the audience while still giving them enough information to understand the context of the historical events. We had several early “staged reading” type performances and sought feedback from our audiences. That was tremendously helpful in helping us adjust our script and approach.
In your opinion, what are the greatest successes and impacts from the project in the community?
We had so many people thank us. So many don’t know much or anything about this part of our history. People were grateful for the information and enjoyed that it was wrapped up in an entertaining fashion.
Do you have any future plans to continue the work of the project? How can people become involved?
We would love to continue sharing our “Votes for Women” show. We hope to present it to teachers who teach this content in their Social Studies curriculum at some teachers’ conventions this year.
What advice do you have for individuals or organizations in Edmonton looking to undertake projects that share Edmonton’s story?
Wrap the historic information in an entertaining format. Reach out to local organizations for partnership and performance opportunities. In addition to teachers conventions we’ve performed at the storytelling festivals and a national historic site.