The chance to see Roslyn Alexander in “The Passions of Emma Goldman” which she wrote and in which she performs, and to explore the Skokie Theater performance space, was an irresistible draw for me. I was well rewarded. Anyone who missed this production in Chicago still has the opportunity to experience Roslyn Alexander’s powerful telling of Emma Goldman’s story in Skokie – if you hurry. ShPIeL - PERFORMING IDENTITY’S WORLD PREMIERE continues with performances on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. closing on June 22nd.
This production is remarkable. Most members of the audience found it hard to imagine that not only is this performance a One Woman Tour de Force about the Social Justice Activist but that it was also written by Roslyn Alexander. In preparing for the role, Roslyn Alexander did extensive research in Goldman’s memoirs and biographies to create “The Passions of Emma Goldman”. Born in Russia to Jewish parents, Emma Goldman immigrated to the United States in 1885 and soon after dedicated her life to the creation of a new social order. As depicted in this play Emma Goldman was a very passionate person even from her early years and did not conform or bend to rules easily. Convinced that the combination of politics with the economic organization of modern society was fundamentally unjust, she embraced political “anarchism” for its vision of liberty, harmony and true social justice. Her admirers were in awe of her and even saw her as a kind of savior, while at the same time; she was also despised as a rebel and a menace by her critics. It is sobering to realize that the issues that concerned Goldman (who was ahead of her time), such as: sexual and reproductive rights for women; workers’ rights for both adults and children, and prison reform remain problems despite the reforms her dedication and sacrifice achieved. As Alexander becomes Goldman, she reveals to the audience the personal and political passions of this fascinating American icon and shows the price she paid for her convictions.
The background and experience of Roslyn Alexander, the “Grand Dame of Chicago Theatre,” who is a Jeff award-winning actor who has worked often with noted director Dennis Zacek as she does in this production, and playwright James Sherman was evident in this production. With some very effective techniques, the audience is introduced to an entire ensemble of character through the one person on stage.
There were projections of pictures of the people mentioned. There was Roslyn Alexander playing both Emma Goldman and her lovers at various times in various places. There were gentle, kind moments, and grizzly moments and lots of passion. It was an awesome feat to sustain the required level of energy for the hour and a half during which we, the audience walked into history. It is clear that even though many gains have been made in all the areas that concerned Emma Goldman during her time, the same issues persist today and continue to require attention and vigilance.
ShPIeL – Performing Identity comes out of work by Artistic Producing Director, David Y. Chack, showing the results of specificity on identity, heritage and culture through theatre. Coming from the Jewish roots of shpiln, ShPIeL’s productions result from identity work and community engagement. ShPIeL has recently produced the Skokie production of “The Invasion of Skokie” as well as the Spanish-Jewish themed Play” Conviction” with Ami Dayan and Maya Productions at Theater Wit; Belgian theatre artist Noemi Schlosser in “Date Me!” and “Sound of Silence” at Theater Wit; and a ShPIeL Showcase at N’Namdi Gallery honoring Jewish work alongside Asian- American, African-American, feminist, and Chicago historical pieces.
I particularly enjoyed David Y. Chack’s comment from his program notes in which he says, “I can just hear her (Goldman) now saying, ‘If corporations want the same rights as people, then they can clean the toilets, clean up the garbage and even make love like people do. Try making love to a corporation!’
Come to the Skokie Theatre and Thursday is a good night when there are several outstanding discussion leaders. You will leave with a new perspective.
Tickets are $28 and may be purchased at skokietheatre.com, or the box office, 847.677.7761. Senior tickets to all performances are $24 and students are $18 with an ID. Special discounted rates for groups of 10 or more are available at 773.969.6860. Free post-performance discussions are available Thursdays and
selected additional performances. Go to the ShPIeL website for complete post performance discussions and guest speakers schedule.
The Skokie Theatre is a great venue for live theater. Check the Skokie Theatre Website to find out about upcoming performances.
The Skokie Theatre
7924 N. Lincoln Ave.