New Play "Dynamite" On Stage at Occidental College

"Dynamite," a new experimental play by Occidental College's Laural Meade '88, explores the dynamic between the working class and industrial power and foreshadows the Occupy Wall Street movement.

 

The play will run November 9-13 in the College's Keck Theater.

The nine-person, all-student cast play characters in an event once dubbed "the crime of the century"-the union-backed bombing of the Los Angeles Times building on October 30, 1910. At 1:07 a.m., 16 sticks of dynamite exploded in an alley outside the Times building in downtown Los Angeles. The bomb was supposed to explode at 4 a.m., when the building would have been empty. But the bomb's timing mechanism was faulty, and the explosion started a fire, killing 21 newspaper employees and harming dozens more.

Brothers and union activists John J. and James B. McNamara, members of the Bridge and Structural Iron Workers of America, were arrested and their trial became a cause célèbre for the American labor movement. The brothers bombed the Times in part to protest the union-busting practices of the steel and iron industry and because the newspaper, owned and published by the conservative Harrison Gray Otis, was militantly anti-union in its editorials. TheTimes remains non-union to this day.

Meade, an adjunct assistant theater professor and the play's director as well as playwright, said many of the characters' sentiments echo those of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, who allege that the financial industry and big business have bankrupted the American people.

"It's uncanny. This is a classic lesson in history repeating itself, of how we're condemned to repeat the past if we don't learn from it," she said. "As far as a good true yarn, it's an incredible story. There are a lot of twists and turns. The characters must make difficult choices in the face of impossible circumstances."

Meade's playwriting focuses on American history at the turn of the last century, and she was also interested in this story as a native Angelena. The story also has a personal angle for the playwright: Meade is a distant relation of the late Otis Chandler, longtime publisher of the Times and the great-grandson of Otis.

"Dynamite" moves between the present and the past. Subtitled "class warfare in a classroom setting," the play is set in part at Occidental, in a lecture hall much like Johnson 200. Meade plays a version of herself as a college professor, and the student-actors also play a version of themselves as Oxy students. The student-actors also helped shape the play's plot and script, Meade said.

"This is a very personal piece about teaching at Oxy. It's also a political piece but one that doesn't espouse a specific polemic," she said. "It should appeal to anyone interested in the current discourse around wealth and class."

Theater Professor Susan Gratch is the play's scene and lighting designer, and Culley guest artist Christina Wright '87 designed the costumes. Sound is by Michael Fontanesi '14 and video projections are by Arielle Darr '12. The cast is: Emily Abbott '14, Jeff Adler '12, Mandi Bossard '11, Giulia Davis '13, Natalya Gibbs '12, Zoe Goozner '15, Lily Jackson '15, Bo Lundgren '13, Serita Robinson '12, and Meade.

"Dynamite" plays November 9-12 at 7:30 p.m. and November 13 at 2 p.m. in the Keck Theater on the College campus. Occidental is located at 1600 Campus Road, Los Angeles 90041. Click here [link to directions site] for directions and parking.

Tickets are $10 for the Oxy community and for seniors. General admission tickets are $15. Group rates are available. For more information, go here, call (323) 259-2922 or email theater@oxy.edu.

Audience members are also encouraged to attend and take part in the play's post-show discussions. Associate politics Professor Caroline Heldman will field questions after the performance on Wednesday, November 9. Robert Gottlieb, Henry R. Luce Professor of Urban Environmental Studies, will participate on Thursday, November 10; and Meade will give a talk after the show on Friday, November 11.