With all due respect to the women who serve Maine in the U.S. Senate today, one must wonder if things would be different if Margaret Chase Smith were still in Washington dispensing her common-sense politics.

Smith, a Skowhegan native and proud Republican, was known for her centrist policies. She had a way of bringing people together and forming consensus.

She was a doer who brought out the best in people — and the best of Maine.

A new play celebrates her life and legacy.

Tonight, Opera House Arts presents “Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington” at the Stonington Opera House. At press time Wednesday, the Portland premiere scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday at the Abromson Center at the University of Southern Maine was postponed because of uncertainty related to the potential hurricane. The rescheduled Portland performance will be Oct. 2, according to USM.

Written by Farmington playwright Linda Britt, the one-woman show tells of Smith’s journey from Skowhegan to a position of international power.

She was the first woman elected to the U.S. House and Senate, and the first woman from Maine to represent the state in both chambers.

She was also the first senator to speak publicly against Sen. Joe McCarthy, the first woman to appear on the TV show “Face the Nation,” and the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for president at a national Republican or Democratic convention.

Actress Sally Jones says it’s an honor to play the role. She wishes more people would pay homage to Smith and make themselves aware of her history.

“What bothers me is how many people don’t know who she is anymore,” Jones said. “You have to be a certain age. I would like to present her to every woman in the state. I would like to reclaim her history. I really do that when I perform.”

Jones, who lives in Norway, had a long career as a high school English and drama teacher. She recently retired from Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.

In addition to acting in the show, Jones also directs. Britt presented her with the script last year. Jones committed it to memory, and began performing it early this year. She debuted the show in Lewiston, and has toured it to South Paris, Rumford, Augusta and Gardiner.

After she completes the scripted part of the play, Jones returns to the stage and remains in character to converse with the audience.

That segment grew out of the stories she and Britt heard about Smith. Everyone, it seemed, had a story. The two women agreed they wanted to formalize a way for people to tell their stories, so they added the post-performance chat as a way for them to talk about the great lady from Skowhegan.

“The first comment on opening night was, ‘Senator, I was at your funeral,’ which of course cracked everyone up,” Jones said. “And of course, I said, ‘Well, how did I look?’ And we were off and running.”

Many people ask Jones how she thinks Smith would handle the current climate of stalemate politics.

Jones usually tries to deflect the question, because she is not interested in a political debate. She’s more interested in hearing what people remember of Smith. This show is about the woman and her personality, and her impact in all corners of Maine and across the country.

Smith won a seat to the U.S. House in 1940, filling the vacancy left by the death of her husband. She was elected to the Senate in 1948, and served until 1973.

The one-woman play begins during her girlhood years in Skowhegan, when she was captain of her high school’s state champion basketball team. It ends with her death at age 97 in 1995.

Jones relishes this role, because she so respects the woman.

“She was fearless,” she said. “She was unique in so many ways. She married late. That was unusual. She had no children. That was unusual. She married an older man. That was unusual.

“When she was a widow, she was untethered. She was a free agent. Her slogan was, ‘I’ve never been able to do everything I’ve wanted to do. But it sums up my philosophy: When people tell you you can’t do something, it just sort of makes you want to try all that much harder just to prove you can. I’m not saying that’s my motto exactly, but it’s how I live my life.’ “

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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Twitter: pphbkeyes