Three Plays: The Political Theater of Howard Zinn: Emma, Marx in Soho, Daughter of Venus
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World-renowned historian Howard Zinn has turned to drama to explore the legacy of Karl Marx and Emma Goldman and to delve into the intricacies of political and social conscience perhaps more deeply than traditional history permits. Three Plays brings together all this work, including the previously unpublished Daughter of Venus, along with a new introductory essay on political theater, and prefaces to each of the plays.
The first act of 'Emma,' Howard Zinn's play about Emma Goldman, is a small miracle. Here is a drama that holds down the heroics, polemics and didacticism to which works about heroes and heroines are prone. True, Emma is idealized; she is loving, honest, selfless, daring, but she is also human and believable.—Walter Goodman, New York Times
"[Marx in Soho is] an imaginative critique of our society's hypocrisies and injustices, and an entertaining, vivid portrait of Karl Marx as a voice of humanitarian justice - which is perhaps the best way to remember him."—Kirkus Reviews
"[Daughter of Venus's] central concerns - personal and social ethics; the balance of obligations to ourselves, our families, and our fellow citizens; the uses and abuses of political and scientific power - remain as timely as ever. . . . Zinn not only displays a fluid and passionately committed style but also is attempting to do something interesting with it: to interweave a story of familial tensions and national politics, and in doing so to remind us that the way we live our lives on the small, local, day-to-day scale of family life can have repercussions and implications for the life of the nation at large."—Louise Kennedy, Boston Globe
(Hesitates, his voice softens as he turns to Emma.) How about a little walk? EMMA: I’m not finished with these posters yet. SASHA: And let’s not argue. After all, we’re comrades. EMMA: Shouldn’t comrades argue? SASHA: Now she wants to argue about arguing! (They are silent as she continues to work on the posters.) Let’s go for a seltzer. EMMA (having fun): Isn’t that a luxury? SASHA (after a pause): A plain seltzer? EMMA: What if I want a little chocolate syrup in it? SASHA (entering into the
better to view photos, which are illumined by a spotlight. One man is slim, well-dressed, striped suit, lawyer-like. This is Attorney General Thomas Gregory. The other, a young man, stocky, hair slicked back, is J. Edgar Hoover, who is showing the photos—but he won’t be identified until the very end of the scene. As they go through the photos, perhaps a projection of each appears on a screen for the audience. HOOVER (showing a photo): This was last September. GREGORY: What was she charged with?
accomplished wonders unsurpassed in history—miracles of technology and science. But it is preparing its own death. Its voracious appetite for profit—more, more, more!—creates a world of turmoil. It turns everything—art, literature, music, beauty itself—into commodities to be bought and sold. It turns human beings into commodities. Not just the factory worker, but the physician, the scientist, the lawyer, the poet, the artists—all must sell themselves to survive. And what will happen when all
every night I’d work for just my grub and enuf clothes to hide my nakedness and I’d be kind to everybody.6 Reitman and Emma had ten tempestuous years together, during which Emma, despite her emotional turmoil, managed to maintain an extraordinary level of political activity, culminating 6. See note 1. 12 howard zinn in her opposition to American entrance into the war in 1917. That event also marked their breakup. Reitman, though he had shown personal courage in many ways, had no desire to
remaining years in various parts of Europe, especially on the Mediterranean coast of France, writing to one another endlessly (many of these letters are preserved in the collection by Richard and Anna Maria Drinnon), keeping in touch with events in Europe and the United States, lending their names and their support to whatever good causes moved them. Emma traveled to Spain during the civil war there and spoke in 1936 to enormous crowds in Barcelona, which was briefly an anarchist enclave