New York, NY – Eighty years ago, in the midst of the Great Depression, a couple of upstart theater guys named Orson Welles and John Houseman defied government censorship to stage a “labor opera” championing union solidarity in the face of rapacious capitalist bosses. “The Cradle Will Rock” is back and its clarion call to today’s working men and women is every bit as urgent as it was back in 1937. Maybe even more so.
Tony Award-winning director John Doyle’s production of “The Cradle Will Rock” now playing at the Classic Stage Company on East 13th Street through May 19, wants trade unionists in the seats because it’s about workers, our revolutionary roots and our ongoing struggle for a piece of the American Dream.
Where else can a striking Charter/Spectrum technician or #CountMeIn construction worker see characters on a New York City theater stage rail against the same kinds of things they are grappling with right here, right now?
Set in “Steel Town, USA,” Marc Blitzstein’s original work features a cast of blue collar characters pitted against the tyranny of “open shops” and deep-pocketed puppet masters who invent wars for profit and subvert the very idea of democracy through a bought off media, clergy, academia, art world and criminal justice system.
“The Cradle Will Rock” takes direct aim at an economic system that rewards simpletons and shreds the virtuous down to their socks.
Set in CSC’s non-tradition theater space which seats audience members around three sides of the stage,” “The Cradle Will Rock” cast members play multiple roles and, at times, interact with the crowd.
“One of the things about the classics is that it’s a universal story; so anyone, no matter what their walk of life, where they come from — there’s universality behind it,” Toni Marie Davis, CSC general manager told LaborPress this week. “I think it’s important that people see that on the stage. Sometimes, theater can have a feeling of eliteness; there’s no accessibility to it — which was never the intention of theater. I think it’s our job to always cultivate new audiences, and this play is a great introduction.”
CSC will wrap up the current run of “The Cradle Will Rock” with a pair of “Classic Conversations” with noted labor journalist Steven Greenhouse and Actors’ Equity national organizer Stefanie Frey on May 14 and the entire cast, including Ken Barnett, Eddie Cooper, Benjamin Eakeley, David Garrison, Ian Lowe, Kara Mikula, Lara Pulver, Sally Ann Triplett, Rema Webb, and Tony Yazbeck on May 19.
“I think that your hope when you produce work is that when people leave the theater, the conversation continues,” Davis added. “I don’t know how much that leads to activism — maybe it does. Maybe it makes someone go to a rally or sign up or following someone on Facebook — or whatever. But get more involved in society or the community.”
CSC is offering $25 rush tickets for card-carrying union members throughout the rest of “The Cradle Will Rock’s” run.
The show’s award-winning cast has certainly been struck by the timeliness of “The Cradle Will Rock.”
As Cooper, who plays of the rolls of “A Dick,” “Junior Mister,” and “Dr. Specialist” recently said in an interview, “Hopefully, when [audiences] leave this show they’ll realize, ‘Oh, the cradle is rocking right now.’”
For more information about “The Cradle Will Rock” and discounted rush tickets, click here.