In conjunction with its production of Joanna McClelland Glass’s “Trying,” Judge D. Todd Ehlers will host a special pre-show seminar at Peninsula Players Theatre on Tuesday, August 22, at 6:30 p.m., in the theater before the 8:00 p.m. performance. “Trying” is based on the time Glass spent as secretary to Judge Francis Biddle, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s attorney general and the primary American judge at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal. Admission to the pre-show seminar is free, and tickets to performances of “Trying” are available.
Since the mid-1970s, Glass’s plays have been produced in many North American regional theaters, as well as in England, Ireland, Australia and Germany. Many of her works explore her childhood memories of Saskatchewan, portraying the conflicts between husband/wife, parent/child and the personality differences between those raised on the prairie versus in the city. “Trying” made its world premiere at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theatre and won the prestigious Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Play. “Trying“ was then produced in New York City at The Promenade Theatre in the fall/winter of 2004-2005. Glass is the recipient of a Rockefeller grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Francesca Primus Award, an annual award for outstanding contributions to the American theater by an emerging female-identifying playwright. She earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Play for “Play Memory,” which was directed by Harold “Hal” Prince.
Biddle was an American lawyer and judge who was born in Paris, France, while his parents were living abroad for his father’s health. He was educated at Groton School before attending Harvard and Harvard Law. He was the private secretary to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes between 1911-1912. Toward the end of World War I, he enlisted in the United States Army but saw no combat. He was a practicing attorney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for 27 years and became increasingly interested in workers’ rights and the protection of civil liberties. After learning of their work conditions, he fought to improve the work environment of Pennsylvania coal miners.
President Roosevelt appointed Biddle as chairman of the National Labor Relations Board in 1934 due to his great concern for labor issues and civil liberties, and five years later, Biddle was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals. In 1941, Biddle was sworn in as the United States Attorney General. Biddle spoke out against the Japanese American Internment and ordered the first federal investigation into a civil rights case, the lynching of Cleo Wright in Missouri. April of 1944 brought about one of Biddle’s most memorable acts as attorney general. At that time, Sewell Avery, the president of Montgomery Ward Stores, intentionally refused to increase wages for his unionized workers, as the National War Labor Board ordered. Avery’s persistent unwillingness to comply with government orders prompted President Roosevelt to take action. Biddle watched, supervising as the United States Army physically carried Avery out of his Chicago office, still clinging to his office chair.
Biddle was a prolific author, the brother of artist George Biddle and husband to poet and playwright Katherine Garrison Chapin. He was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and his book “Mr. Justice Holmes” was adapted into a stage play and the 1950 film “The Magnificent Yankee.”
Ehlers will speak about Biddle, the law of his time and share his own personal law career. Ehlers serves as a judge in the circuit court for Door County, which is part of the 8th Judicial District for Wisconsin, comprising Door, Kewaunee, Brown, Marinette, Oconto, Waupaca and Outagamie counties. He was born and raised in Door County and attended Sevastopol High School. Ehlers earned his undergraduate degree at St. Norbert College and his Juris Doctor degree from Marquette University. He was a practicing attorney in Sturgeon Bay from 1982 to 2000 before his initial election to the circuit court.
Peninsula Players Theatre has a long history of being committed to providing educational programming for the community, including an intern program that dates back to the founding days of the theater in the 1930s and post-show discussions. Contact the Box Office at 920-868-3287 or visit www.peninsulaplayers.com for more information on free seminars, or to purchase tickets.