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"Every day an adventure ... every day a life"

A play about real-life pioneer women


Valery Daemke • Doreen Dunn

Kathleen Gaffney • Nancy Sellin

If you are interested in doing a production of Frontiers, please contact Nancy Sellin at 

A brief history of the writing of Frontiers

When the four playwrights got together in 1981 they had almost nothing in common, except that they were all actresses who had developed their own one-woman shows and were busily performing them around the country. Each had written before, each was eager to write again. And each was on the brink of change—of a new frontier in her life. 

Inspired by the rash of women’s diaries in the publishing world, which included the Lilla Day Monroe Collection at the Kansas State Historical Society, the Rendle Family History, and the Recollections of Essie Stallworth McGowin, the four women decided to write a play. In creating this collage of the lives of real pioneer women, the authors discovered that what was expressing itself was a kind of courage, a power, a way of life. It became clear that what was being unveiled was their spirit—the kind of spirit that transcends a specific period of history and becomes a recognizable, universal symbol to all people facing new frontiers. Frontiers is a play with a pulse. The pulse of Frontiers is the heartbeat of the women who came, stayed, lived, and died on the American frontier.

Production Information

Frontiers has had numerous successful productions around the country: high schools, colleges, performing arts schools, and regional theatres. It was also adapted into a dance piece and presented at the Edinburgh Theatre Festival in Scotland to rave reviews. 

Cast: Frontiers can be performed with any number of actresses ranging from four to thirty-one. 

Action: The action and transitions within the play should be fluid. Actresses can flow between one scene and another with the aid of strategically placed costume pieces, props, and by the assistance of lighting and movement. 

Time period: The action of this play takes place between 1840-1890. 

Setting: The setting is deliberately simple. A scrim in back (optional), stools, a table, a ladder, bales of hay, the frame of a house. All the pieces are used as other things. The ladder can be used as a tree, a hayloft, a top of a stagecoach, etc. Most of the moods are set with lighting. Each actress wears one basic costume and can add pieces: apron, shawl, and bonnet, as needed. 

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