Aiken stage production to showcase fight for voting rights in U.S.

(Source: MGN)
(Source: MGN)(MGN)
Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 3:25 PM EDT
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AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - A new play titled “The Big Debate,” based on the fragile friendships of three important figures in American history, will have its national premiere in Aiken.

The performance will take place at 7 p.m. Aug. 23 at Etherredge Center at the University of South Carolina Aiken, one of four events closing out Aiken Voices and Votes.

In February, Aiken Voices and Votes launched a seven-month celebration to commemorate advancements in American voting rights history. A large committee of community volunteers organized 16 special events.

The celebration gets its name from a similarly titled traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution currently on display at the Aiken County Historical Museum.

“The Big Debate” addresses the tensions among American voting rights stalwarts Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Douglass fought for voting rights for Black men, achieved in the 1870s. Anthony and Stanton laid the groundwork for voting rights for women, which took 50 more years for passage in the 1920s.

“This play exposes the dilemma of citizen groups having to fight for rights independently, and state by state, rather than together in a unified front,” said Doug Rabold, a committee member who sat in on a recent rehearsal.

The playwright is Chris Garcia, an award-winning author and playwright in Augusta who also works for the U.S. Army Cyber Protection Brigade at Fort Gordon. Garcia’s plays have been produced at Augusta-area playhouses and his short fiction writings have been included in several anthologies.

Aiken Voices and Votes recruited Nancy Gamba Hansen to direct the play.

“Set in the 1860s, this play has the immediacy of current events,” she said. “I’ve been moved by the opportunity to bring these iconic characters to life and to learn about the determination of many generations to participate fully in our democratic society.”

After the 45-minute performance of the one-act play, a panel of history experts will discuss that period in American history and repercussions that persist today. They panel will include Dr. Sarah King of USC Aiken, Dr. Melissa Develvis of Augusta University and Dr. Walter Curry of Renaissance Publications. Dr. Melencia Johnson of USC Aiken will serve as the moderator.

“The Big Debate” is free and open to the public. Free registration for this and all of the final four events this month is available at

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