Two thought-provoking, dramatic works will be presented next week in Salt Lake City - one, "The Man Who Never Died," marking the 75th anniversary of the execution of legendary songwriter and labor movement activist Joe Hill, and the other, "Wings," featuring Marilyn Holt as a former stunt pilot who suffers a stroke and is plunged into a terrifying, mentally disoriented world.
- WINGS, a drama about a former aviatrix in her 70s felled by a severe stroke, will feature the talents of one of Salt Lake's most gifted actresses - Marilyn Holt - as Emily Stilson, a woman struggling to make contact with the outside world after her mind has short-circuited.In Arthur Kopit's play, the audience is permitted to share the thoughts that rattle around in her mind.
"I'm still intact here!" she thinks, but there's no contact with others, as the doctors around her seem to be speaking only gibberish and they can't seem to understand her either. Meanwhile, memories flood in on Emily Stilson between painful bouts to relearn speech and word associations aided by a dedicated therapist and others.
Kopit wrote "Wings" in response to his experiences with his own father, who had suffered a major stroke, and from his research at the Burke Rehabilitation Center in New York, where he observed several women who were victims of strokes.
The work was originally conceived and performed as a drama project for National Public Radio. When "Wings" played on Broadway in 1979, the New York Times said it was ". . . a brilliant work; complex at first yet utterly lucid; written with great sensitivity and with the excitement of a voyage of discovery."
Director Shimon Ramirez' cast includes JaNelle Dixon, Andrea Larabee, Rene Hemrick, Bobbi Fouts, Myk Watford and Iman Nazeeri.
Performances will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 15, 16 and 17, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m., with a matinee at 5 p.m. on Friday.
For reservations, contact the Pioneer Memorial Theatre box office at 581-6961. The Lab Theatre is located in the Performing Arts Building adjacent to the University of Utah campus book store.
- THE MAN WHO NEVER DIED, Barrie Stavis' play about the life and execution of legendary songwriter/labor movement leader Joe Hill, will be presented Thursday through Sunday.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of Joe Hill's execution by firing squad and the Salt Lake production is one of two scheduled this month in Utah. The other will be staged Nov. 29-Dec. 1 by the theater department of College of Eastern Utah in Price.
On Jan. 10, 1914, two masked men entered a Salt Lake City grocery store and shot and killed the owner - former policeman John Morrison - and his son.
Three days later, Joseph Hillstrom (also known as Joe Hill), was arrested for the crime on what most people claim were purely circumstantial evidence. At the time of his arrest, Salt Lake police didn't realize they had something of a celebrity on their hands, but Hill had gained national fame in the labor movement as a songwriter and rebel.
Hill, born Joel Heggelund in Sweden, had a knack for turning popular songs of the day into political parodies, which were printed in songbooks distributed by the International Workers of the World.
After two trials, Hill was executed on Nov. 19, 1915, by firing squad in the old prison in Sugarhouse. An estimated 9,000 people passed through the funeral parlor the day following his execution, and when his body was taken to Chicago for a second funeral, some 30,000 mourners turned out. (Hill's body was cremated and packets of his ashes were sent to labor unions in every state of the union except Utah.) Richard Scharine is directing this latest production of "The Man Who Never Died," which premiered in 1958 and has been translated into a dozen languages.
Scharine said that Stavis had hoped to be in Salt Lake City for the anniversary production, but he had previously committed to a production in Barcelona, Spain.
"The Man Who Never Died" is one of four plays by Stavis addressing the necessity of free speech and the need for artists to be allowed to express themselves without political consequence. Others are "Lamp at Midnight," about Galileo; "Harper's Ferry," about John Brown, and "Coat of Many Colors," about Joseph going down into Egypt.
Scharine notes that "The Man Who Never Died" is "a play of the American dream. The tyranny of Joe Hill's time against which it argues also reflects the struggle against McCarthyism in the time it was written. In an era when political pressure attempts to dictate what artists can and cannot do, it remains painfully relevant today. Nor in a time when communism has failed worldwide and capitalism has produced the largest gap between rich and poor in our nation's history has the cry of Joe Hill for a new social order lost its poignancy."
Scharine's cast includes Robin Youngberg as Joe Hill (Youngberg is a law student of Swedish descent whose father worked for 26 years in the Bingham copper mines), and Krista Grimmett and Jared Neumeier as his IWW comrades. Angel Hays plays the love who is Hill's downfall and Matthew Mullaney as the labor spy who betrays him.
Mark Adams, Gary Ellenberger and Marcel Lundberg will portray assorted capitalists, judges, policemen and others, with Angela Simon as the designated balladeer.
The play is being produced by Nan Weber and sponsored by the Joe Hill Organizing Committee, with musical direction by Paul Boruff.
Performances will be Wednesday through Sunday, Nov. 14-18, at 7:30 p.m. at the Communications Workers of America labor hall, 939 S. 140 East (Edison Avenue). Tickets are $5 general admission or $3 for students, senior citizens and union members. For reservations, call 596-1884.