“The Passions of Emma Goldman” Review – History Retold in One-Woman Show


Perhaps as a more elegant and at times coquettish person than some of us might imagine her to have been, award-winning actress Roz Alexander gives us 90-minutes of re-telling of the life and times of anarchist firebrand Emma Goldman



We meet her in her St. Tropez home when she is in her 60’s and reminiscing of her life.  The script, penned by Roz Alexander, roughly follows the outlines of Goldman’s autobiography, “Living My Life”, a book that had renewed popularity with the rise of the feminist movement in the 1970’s.  



Holding our attention for 90 minutes without fail, Alexander recreates a time and space all but forgotten in 2014. 



We first learn of Goldman’s rough childhood in Lithuania, then part of the Russian Empire.  We follow her to New York and her life as a seamstress to her political awakening and immersion in the Anarchist movement. 


Along the way we meet Goldman’s lifelong soul mate Alexander Berkman in her re-telling, and follow him on his journey of attempted assassination of a famous industrialist Henry Clay Frick, to years in prison, and resumption of Anarchist life upon release. 


We follow Emma on speaking tours, in and out of prisons, going to Europe first by choice and later deported, and finally on her demoralizing trip to Bolshevik Russia.



This play is well-named as “The Passions…”, for this is what Alexander’s script emphasizes.  Though an icon of the feminist movement, it’s striking that so much of Goldman’s life was shaped by the men around her, many her lovers.    That said, Goldman is presented by this script as a woman devoted to ending the class inequities and misery of the downtrodden working men and women that she had devoted herself to. 



The script unfolds with Goldman prompted to tell us about her life as she pulls out questions from an index file that are described as the ones she was always asked while on speaking tours.   In the last question –“Would you do it all over again the same way if you had the chance?” –Alexander as Goldman asserts “Of Course!” with her voice, but shows grave doubts with her eyes.  The curtain then falls and we realize that Alexander’s script and acting has brought an Emma Goldman to life on a very accessible human scale.


The production runs at two locations:  May 13 – June 1 at Stage 773, 1225 West Belmont Avenue, Chicago, and June 4 – June 22 at The Skokie Theatre, 7924 North Lincoln Avenue, Skokie.


For Chicago tickets visit the Stage 773 Website (www.stage773.com) or call 773 327 5252.


For Skokie tickets visit The Skokie Theatre website (www.skokietheatre.com ) or call 847 677 7761.




All Photos by Ashleigh Bowers

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