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The “Moment Was Now” Has its Moment

World Premier draws Crowds and Wows

The Moment Was Now ran for seven shows in September in Baltimore to large and enthusiastic audiences who sang, clapped and even cried and stayed for post-show discussions.

One national labor leader a called it “a historical masterpiece.”

One grandmother, whose 9-year-old granddaughter was captivated by the music and the show, said it has “great potential in my home schooling work and could help in creating a curriculum for different age groups. “A railroad worker who drove with a group from his union (BMWE/IBT) from Philadelphia, said: It was very well done, I truly enjoyed it. However, my wife now reminds me about 6 times a day that “women hold up half the sky” (this was the chorus of a song sung by Susan B Anthony)

Anne Haddad said in a review (www.welcometobaltimorehon.com) “the music in The Moment Was Now is inspired by blues, R&B, rap, and even opera (performed  by)… a small but powerful music ensemble that elevated the whole show.”

 

The unusual format, content and affordable ticket prices drew people from as far away as San Francisco, as well as from Boston, New Jersey and Ohio.  The audiences included many people from Maryland who don’t often go to theater: public housing activists; returning citizens (“ex-cons”); a large group of retired hospital workers (1199/SEIU) as well as many progressive organizers and activists and of course the Baltimore theater going audiences.

The Moment Was Now is an original musical play that takes place in post-civil war Baltimore in 1869, a turning point in US history where America almost did the right thing.  Echoing the current moment, the play centers around the impassioned search for unity between the dynamic historic leaders of powerful movements during Reconstruction.  

The conflicts and possibilities unfold at a fictional meeting convened by Frederick Douglass and are elevated by the musical and spoken word format. This most unusual gathering consists of suffragette, abolitionist Susan B. Anthony; Black trade union leader Isaac Myers; African American feminist, author and abolitionist Frances Harper; and Irish National Labor Union president William Sylvis. Railroad Kingpin Jay Gould lurks in the background.  Hope hangs in the balance.


The Characters

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) Douglass was arguably the most important US figure of the 19th C, possibly after Lincoln. Douglass was an author, abolitionist, suffragist, editor, diplomat and orator. Born a slave Douglass escaped from Baltimore while working in the shipyard as a caulker. Douglass had great dignity and a powerful oratorical delivery, earned through decades of both slavery and abolitionism and spoke frequently throughout his life, both domestically and internationally. In addition to speaking for the rights of African Americans he Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all peoples, whether blackfemaleNative American, or recent immigrant and advocated for many social causes including temperance, peace, land reform, free public education, and the abolition of capital punishment.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Douglass)

Susan B. Anthony: (1820-1906)  Anthony was a legendary woman in the 19th Century, both as an abolitionist and a women’s rights advocate/suffragette, as well as a spokesperson for the temperance movement and, after the Civil War, for working women. Raised in a principled, moralistic and righteous in a middle class Quaker home, she overcame her youthful shyness to become a teacher and then a frequent and articulate speaker, writer and publisher for the causes she supported. She was a passionate campaigner with a revolutionary spirit. She rose to a deep anger when she felt that women’s rights were being betrayed by both political parties, particularly with the 15th Amendment, and battled with many former allies in the abolition movement, including Douglass. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_B._Anthony)

 Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911) Harper was an African-American writer, lecturer, and political activist, who promoted abolition, civil rights, women's rights, and temperance. She helped found or held high office in several national progressive organizations. She is best remembered today for her prolific publications of poetry and fiction, which preached moral uplift and counseled the oppressed how to free themselves from their demoralized condition. She was born in Baltimore, grew up in Ohio and became a teacher both in the North and then extensively in the South during Reconstruction. She was actively engaged in the intersection of the post-war emerging feminist/suffragette movement and the fight for racial equality. Harper spoke with great authority as both a woman and an African American, and with the voice of a poet, siding with Douglass on the question of male suffrage and the 15th Amendment. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Harper)

Isaac Myers: (1835-1891) Myers was a free Baltimore-born African American, while Maryland was still a slave state. He went to work as a caulker in the shipyard at an early age, the same shipyard that Douglass worked in when he escaped from slavery. He was a religious family man as well as a true leader both in his workplace and the community and a passionate defender of the rights of Black workers. He pioneered an effort to force the emerging labor movement to include AA trade unionists, despite intense resistance, and formed the (Colored) National Labor Movement in 1869. Myers was close to and influenced by Douglass and had great faith and determination that the US would do the right thing after the Civil War. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Myers)

William Sylvis: (1828–1869) Sylvis was Irish, raised poor and became an iron worker at a young age. He was a driven organizer and a visionary post-war union leader. He built the first national labor movement, the National Labor Union, which at its height in the late 1860’s had several hundred thousand members.  He had very radical views on class and capitalism and supported women’s suffrage, was a passionate and visionary labor leader, but confused views on race, particularly on Reconstruction. His vision often clashed with reality on the ground, including his mission to build a Labor Party to challenge the existing Democrats and Republicans. He suffered from serious health problems that led to his early death. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_H._Sylvis)

Jay Gould: Gould was a major 19th C robber baron and Railroad mogul, arrogant and extremely unlikeable. As a member of the rising industrial ruling class he was deeply disrespectful of workers, and, in reality, was almost his own stereotype. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Gould)