Geva Theatre Center’s production of “The Agitators: The Story of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass,” written by Mat Smart and directed by Logan Vaughn, recently became the best-selling world premiere and one of the best-selling dramas overall in the theater’s 45-year history.
Over 15,000 people attended the Rochester-crafter production over a four-week period with 32 public performances. Four student matinees were sold out, and attracted students from Rochester City School District, suburban schools and schools from as far away as Union Springs.
As with “In the Heights,” the first production of the 2017-18 season, the theater intentionally maintained low ticket prices to ensure that as many people from the Rochester community as possible were able to see this production about its two most famous citizens. The final week of performances was sold out with only standby tickets available.
When Geva commissioned this play from Smart over two years ago, the vision was to produce it to coincide with the centenary celebrations of women’s suffrage in New York state.
Making their Geva debuts in “The Agitators” were Cedric Mays as Douglass and Madeleine Lambert as Anthony. The creative team included Jack Magaw, scenic design; Jessica Ford, costume design; Christine Binder, lighting design; David Wilson, sound design; Juliette Jones, composer; Dave Bova, wigs and makeup design; and Jenni Werner, literary director/resident dramaturg.
Recent world premieres at Geva include “Other Than Honorable” by Jamie Pachino, “Katherine’s Colored Lieutenant” by Nora Cole, “The Road to Where” by Cass Morgan, “Women in Jeopardy!” by Wendy McLeod, “Tinker to Evers to Chance” by Smart, “Informed Consent” by Deborah Zoe Laufer and “The Book Club Play” by Karen Zacarías.
Over 11,000 people from Greater Rochester have subscribed to Geva’s 2017-18 season. Its subscription base ranks in the top 25 in the nation, serving the 51st largest metro area. Geva partners regularly with other area organizations.
The cast of “The Agitators” started rehearsals at Geva in September 2017. Script changes were made to the text right up until the official opening performance in October 2017.