Phillips’ Mill is proud to present “Voices: A History of the VIA of Doylestown,” a historical drama that celebrates the pioneering women who founded Doylestown Hospital 100 years ago. The voices of these determined women, members of the Village Improvement Association (VIA) of Doylestown, can be heard loud and clear as they demanded access to healthcare for their community. This inspiring story of resilience and resourcefulness by award-winning writer Joy Nash is being directed by Griffin Horn and produced at the Mill in partnership with the VIA.
The VIA was established as a women’s civic organization in 1895 to improve such quality-of-life issues as dusty roads, littered streets and public spitting. Around the turn of the century, they turned their attention to bringing a visiting nurse to Doylestown, and later a hospital. They faced many challenges and great resistance, yet they refused to be dismissed.
They founded an eight-bed emergency hospital in the heart of Doylestown that has grown into a nationally recognized, 247-bed healthcare system. “The women of the VIA never gave up, and because of them, we have Doylestown Hospital,” says Valerie Eastburn, Chair of the Phillips' Mill Drama Committee.
"Imagine a time when everyone is hacking because of all the dust in the streets. Men were spitting in the streets. Sanitary issues were not being addressed by the men. So the women of the VIA did it themselves," adds Eastburn.
"This is a story of what can happen when women take charge,” she continues. “Women are still struggling to be listened to. Through these live performances, we tell stories of our past while addressing the issues of today.”
When Horn was approached to direct the play, he was drawn to the themes of “Voices,” which are still relevant today, and the extensive research done by its writer, Joy Nash. He had been thinking of dipping his toes back into directing when he was approached to work on the play. Horn, a playwright himself, not only loved the story, but also the way the writer wanted it told in part by a narrator addressing the audience directly.
“In this age of digital media, when we have become very separate from one another, the power of live performance can be very grounding,” adds Eastburn. “There is something very important about using that medium to talk to the issues of today.”