Back to life and brought to life.
“The Cody Monologues” is a history lesson through compelling acting, overlapping the real lives of Cody women of the past.
But even if the show is educational, don’t hide in the basement to avoid it because the theatre production should not be confused with summer school.
This July-August production of “The Cody Monologues” at the Cody Center for the Performing Arts is a re-enactment of the lives of eight influential women in Cody history, though periodically, a couple of them take the night off.
On a recent night, Caroline Lockhart (played by Patrisha Hennings), Cassie Waters (Bethany Sandvik, also the playwright), Etta Feeley (Maurine Hinckley-Cole), Dr. Frances Lane (Erin Zagorodney), Orilla Downing (Karen Grimm), Estelle Ishigo (Madisen McDonald), Mary Jester Allen (Diane Whitlock) and Olive Fell (Annamarie Victor) took an audience of about 25 on a way-back-machine journey to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Caroline Lockhart looms large over the proceedings as a one-time famous western author, first president of the Cody Stampede and one-time owner of the Cody Enterprise, and who also made enemies as readily as friends. That included Lane, the object of the novel “The Lady Doc.”
The Lockhart-Lane feud is neatly encapsulated by both characters, perhaps best summed up by the phrase, “What, me bitter?”
Feeley and Waters were both madams (Waters being the founder of the business that evolved from a flesh house to Cassie’s steakhouse).
“We saw a need and an opportunity,” Feeley spoke on-stage about her profession.
If Lockhart spent an entire novel vilifying Lane, this Lane demolished her in Twitter-like length, calling her “a jealous, obnoxious, hussy of a woman who fancied herself a writer.”
Downing, who served 42 years as Park County Clerk of Court between 1922 and 1964, offered perhaps the most appealing story, a departure from the way she spent most of her life.
Orilla and first husband Gail Downing, a Cody cowboy, spent the 1908 season with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.
Although many years had passed, one could sense the way the memory made her eyes glitter and put the excitement in her voice as she relived one marvelous year.
“Some of us rode our horses right down 8th Avenue [in New York],” Grimm as Downing recounted, as she told of being one of nine women in the 500-member cast.
“We became celebrities wherever we went,” she said.
And they went everywhere, a list of U.S. cities and states most accurately described by unfolding a map of the country.
This is the year of Mary Jester Allen, Buffalo Bill Cody’s niece, who ran with his legacy and was the backbone of the founding of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
She was a nervous, but bold 19-year-old when she became “the first female press agent” as advance woman for the Wild West exhibitions of 1899.
“Front page, if possible,” Allen repeated of Buffalo Bill’s orders. “I can still hear his voice in my head.”
Chances are those who attend “The Cody Monologues” will hear those voices in their own heads long after.