• Howard Zinn Talk-back Session Examines American Activism, Past and Present


On Tuesday, October 28, a packed house in the C. Walsh Theatre was treated to a staged reading of Howard Zinn’s Emma, a biographical work based on the life of 20th-century activist and anarchist Emma Goldman.  Professor Judy Dushku of the Government Department moderated a talk-back with the playwright after the production.

With minimal stage direction, and simple costuming and makeup, the cast of Emma transformed the written word for the audience after only three brief rehearsals.  Caitlin Langstaff, an assistant professor in the Theatre Department, played the role of Emma.  She was joined by faculty, staff and students to bring Zinn’s words to life.  Stage manager Ryan Began provided the cast with a booklet of dramaturgy, aiding their performance by giving them a background to draw on for their actions and emotions.  

Professor Dushku thanked the cast and crew of the production: “Seeing it performed and hearing Emma’s words, it was so non-trivial,” she said.  “The combination of actors and writing really touched me.”

Howard Zinn took the stage after the performance.  Professor Dushku led the talk-back session, asking how much of the script had changed to reflect the last ten years of American politics.  Zinn replied, “The relevance of the page was there from the beginning.  I did make changes to the script, but they were not political — the truths of that time period are still truths today.”  

The questions ranged from political messages to the war in Iraq, and Zinn’s closing remarks drew overwhelming applause from the audience.  “The best hope for today is people around the country will decide that not only are they against it — this war — but that they are against all war,” Zinn said.  “That we’ve had enough; to say, ‘No Iraq, no Iran, no war at all.’ …My hope is that the people transfer those feelings into action.”  

Zinn Fest is a collaborative effort between Suffolk University, the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre and Central Square Theatre.  Events at Suffolk include the plays Emma (Oct. 28), Shouting Theatre in a Crowded Fire (Nov.  20-22), and Daughter of Venus (Jan. 22-24).  These performances will be in the C. Walsh Theatre, 55 Temple Street, Boston.  Seating is first come, first served; arrive early to get a seat.

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