“Lucy Sweet Sullivan and the Petticoat Council:” The story of Baldwin’s community


Maggie Young

The cast of “Lucy Sweet Sullivan and the Petticoat Council” rehearse a scene to prepare for their weekend of shows beginning Sep. 24.

This weekend, “Lucy Sweet Sullivan and the Petticoat Council” will be making its debut performance in celebration of Baldwin City. Rooted in local history, the play tells a story of the Baldwin City community during the 19th century.

“Lucy Sweet Sullivan and the Petticoat Council” is an original play written by Jennifer Glenn, a resident of Lawrence, Kan. The hour-long production tells the story of the titular Lucy Sullivan, who made history as the first woman mayor of Baldwin City and had an all-female city council alongside her.

The play was commissioned by the Baldwin City Community Theater to celebrate the 150th birthday of the town back in 2020. However, production was canceled due to complications that arose from the COVID-19 pandemic. Emily Kasprzak, Assistant Professor of Theater, is co-directing the play in collaborating with Glenn to help bring Glenn’s vision of the play to life.

“When I was thinking about shows I wanted to do this year, I saw this opportunity for Baker University to partner with the community theater and produce this show they weren’t able to do before,” Kasprzak said.

Unlike prior productions, auditions for the play were open to the general public alongside Baker students. Kasprzak explained that the cast includes Baker faculty members, older performers from Baldwin City and even young children.

Casting a wide range of ages has led to unique challenges for Kasprzak and Glenn. Including children in the production meant cutting rehearsals short and ending them earlier in the evening. There has also been a mask mandate enforced during rehearsals, including when they are outside, to protect the unvaccinated children from contracting COVID-19.

But Freshman Bea Weinpel, who plays as one of Lucy Sullivan’s council members, believes that the diverse set of ages brings a great dynamic to the rehearsals.

“It’s cute that we have these little kids [on set] and they bring a lot of energy into the whole thing because they’re running around and you just get energized too,” Weinpel said. “You also have some people who are really experienced and you can go to them for advice if you don’t know how to act or what a character should do.”

Marion Constantinescu, 72, is a veteran performer who joined the cast after being invited by Kasprzak. He had been an active member of the Baldwin City Community Theater, helping to host dinner theaters and summer shows prior to the organization closing its doors in 2015. This year, he’s enjoyed being a part of the cast and taking on the role of six different characters.

“I’ve been in shows where I’ve played different characters and it’s always been fun,” Constantinescu said. “Everybody seems to be working well together. They’re doing a good job of memorizing their lines and blocking. I hope a lot of people come out and see how fun it is.”

By bringing together people from the community and from Baker, there is hope that “Lucy Sweet Sullivan and the Petticoat Council” will draw in more interest to the theater scene. The goal is to help relaunch the Baldwin City Community Theater after being absent for six years.

“The community theater was really strong for a really long time,” Kasprzak said. “Our hope is that this is such a good experience that it kind of gets some momentum so the community theater can just keep growing and growing.”

The show is currently slated to be performed outside in the heart of Sullivan Square ― the site where Lucy Sullivan’s house once stood. Masks are advised and the audience will be social-distancing, but it is open for everybody to come without having to worry about the price of a ticket. The production of Lucy Sweet Sullivan is the story of the community, performed by the community and made for the community.

“When you’re from Baldwin or in Baldwin, you want to know what town you live in, right?” Weinpel said. “It’s a great way to view a little bit of history because it’s definitely not boring.

The show will make its debut at 7 p.m. on Sept. 24 and 25 with an additional showing at 2 p.m. on Sept. 26.