Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Review of Underscore Theatre Company's Haymarket: The Anarchist's Songbook

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Haymarket: The Anarchist's Songbook. The book and lyrics were by Alex Higgin-Houser and the music was by David Kornfeld. It was directed and the movement was done by Elizabeth Margolius. The music direction was by Robert Ollis and Tyler Merle Thompson. It was about the Haymarket affair, which came about during a time when people were protesting for 8 hours of work, 8 hours of rest, 8 hours for what we will. The Haymarket protest happened in Chicago because the police had come the day before to a strike at the McCormick factory and shot some of the strikers. At the Haymarket protest somebody threw a bomb at the police officers and all these men, George Engel (Tyler Merle Thompson), Adolf Fischer (David Kaplinsky), Louis Lingg (Royen Kent), Albert Parsons (James Smart), and August Spies (Mike Mazzocca), who supported good working hours and conditions were blamed, put on trial, and hanged. Lucy Parsons (LaKecia Harris) is a woman who is the wife of one of the men who was killed, and she is basically the central character. And I think she is a super cool person. I thought this was a really fun show even though it was serious. I think it is a really good way to learn about this sad but interesting part in history.

There was this song called "Lady Dynamite" which was not about a lady; it was about literal dynamite. It is sung two times by Louis Lingg about how much he loves dynamite and how it kind of solves all your problem. This isn't exactly true, because it can land you in jail. I think some of the anarchists, like Lingg, thought dynamite would be good for protecting themselves against the police and for winning the revolution if it was violent. I liked this song because I felt like it was very creepy. It was about something that could really seriously hurt people, but Lingg seemed really happy about it, especially the last time he sang it. The women (Summer Hofford, Victoria Olivier, Khaki Pixley) would start out dancing really slow and then it turned into more of a frantic jig, and that made it even more creepy. And another thing that made it more creepy was when I found out later that he really did kill himself with a blasting cap. It was very creepy in the show, but the description I read later was even more gruesome.

I liked how the courtroom turned into a circus which kind of makes the point that people can see a trial as if it were a show, even though it is deciding if somebody is going to die or not. They also stage it and describe it as a circus because no justice is being done and everything has gone crazy. The judge and jury treated it like a carnival show even though it is about a bunch of people about to be hanged. Everyone who is not being judged has some kind of circus element to them like a clown nose or wig or a silly voice. It was pointing out that the judge, jury, and lawyers deserved to be clown-i-nized. It basically was not a true trial and it wasn't going to help anybody.

"Keep on Talking, August Spies" was a song during the trial talking about how August Spies would just continue on talking forever to try to prove that the trial was unjust. But if you know the story, you know that didn't work out one hundred percent. It was pretty funny because August Spies kept interrupting the chorus to talk a little bit more about how terrible what the court was doing was. I think it was kind of appropriate to have humor here because the story is so depressing and it kind of worked with the circus elements of the trial to have an upbeat kind of song. Also, August Spies seemed to have kind of a crazy life because he got married when he was in prison!

I thought that "The Order of the Gallows" was a super cool song about the wives (Harris, Hofford, Olivier, and Pixley) of the men who were getting executed and how they went on a speaking tour about how what the policemen and the judges were doing was wrong. Lucy Parsons was the leader of the women of the noose and I think she is a super powerful character and she has become an inspiration for me. My mom and I are reading some really cool books about her and the entirety of the Haymarket Affair. I wish there were more books that focused just on Lucy Parsons for kids. I think it shows how brave and cool and awesome these women were that they really actually spoke their minds and they didn't just try to deal with it and say, "There's nothing we can do, I guess." Especially for this time period when women were so oppressed, it was exciting to see women say what they wanted to say.

People who would like this show are people who like awesome women of the noose, circus trials, and dynamite. I think people should definitely go see this show. It was a super fascinating story and I hope everyone will go see it.

Photos: Evan Hanover

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