Professor to perform 19th century woman’s story with one voice

A professor proves that a woman can handle anything on her own in the production of a one-woman show at the Hays Theatre on Friday. “Shame the Devil! An Audience with Fanny Kemble” is a one-woman show based on her own book, “Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839,” that celebrates the life of a 19th century actress, abolitionist, author, wife and mother.

The show is produced by faculty members from Illinois State University School of Theatre.

Lori Adams and Janet Wilson are professional actors and acting professors at ISU. Adams portrays Fanny Kemble, and Wilson is the director of the show.

Adams and Wilson wanted to create their own project and still be able to teach and spend time with their families.

Connie de Veer, theatre faculty member and former colleague of Adams and Wilson, invited the touring production to TCU because she felt it would be a great way for students to learn about someone who is not well-known.

“People often think that history is boring, but this show is entertaining and moving,” de Veer said.

Some students said they do not know of Fanny Kemble.

“I have never heard of her, but I would like to know her story,” said Lauren Taylor, a freshman social work major. “I love learning about important women in history through performances.”

The show has toured for the past five years in Illinois and Virginia. This week’s performance will be the first performance in Texas.

“Fanny Kemble is an influential woman,” Wilson said. “She was the first white woman to condemn slavery in print and was praised for it on the House of Commons floor the same day as the Battle of Gettysburg.”

Adams said this role has taught her more about acting than any other role.

“It is an honor and privilege to portray Fanny Kemble but a lot of fun,” Adams said. “It’s a huge challenge to make Fanny’s story clear and entertaining.”

In the show, Adams also provides voices for 10 other characters as Fanny’s story unfolds on and off the stage in England and America while wearing a Victorian costume that weighs 40 pounds.

Adams said the show is worth seeing for the elaborate costume alone, and is glad that women no longer wear that type of dress because carrying the extra weight of the dress can be a workout.

“There’s a part in the show when I get down on my knees,” Adams said. “When I get too old to be able to get up, that’s when I’ll stop playing Fanny.