Mary “Mother” Jones, “a fearless fighter for workers’ rights,” renowned for her “intrepid union organizing from the 1870s to the 1920s [that] earned her praise from millions of laborers as well as the media sobriquet of ‘the most dangerous woman in America,’” will take the stage at Oakland’s Henry Heymann Theatre on Sept. 17, says the Battle of Homestead Foundation.
Mother Jones In Heaven, a 90-minute play written by activist and songwriter Si Kahn, will star actress Vivian Nesbitt as Mother Jones and featuring guitarist John Dillon as musical accompanist.
“The first time I read the script, I got goosebumps,” Nesbitt recalls. “It felt like Mother Jones was calling me to get to work.”
After Nesbitt and her husband Dillon discovered the play, they bought the performing rights to the show, sold their house, bought an RV, and have since been traveling the country performing this work, according to a press release.
“The battles Mother Jones fought we’re still fighting today,” says Nesbitt. “This is my opportunity to make a difference by bringing an extraordinary woman to life.”
Ahead of the event, Battle of Homestead Foundation president John Haer stresses Jones' connections to the Steel City.
“Mother Jones came to Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania several times to lead rallies and encourage strikers,” Haer says. “In the early 1900s, nearly anywhere in the U.S. where coal miners, textile workers, or steelworkers were fighting to organize a union, Mother Jones was there.”
The foundation will co-present the event with Calliope House, a local folk music society.
The play begins with Mother Jones’ ascent to heaven, which she discovers resembles her favorite Irish pub.
Once she’s arrived in heaven, “Mother Jones looks back into her storied past, balancing the scales and weaving moments of profound insight with hilarious tales of a hellraiser in her prime,” write the event sponsors.
“Though she’s been dead almost a hundred years, she’ll undoubtedly have the audience on their feet shouting for justice and ready to hit the nearest picket line,” the organization writes in the release.
Mother Jones in Heaven. Sat., Sept. 17, 8:00 p.m. Henry Heymann Theatre, 4301 Forbes Ave., Oakland. $15-25. https://tinyurl.com/27xkrym6.