CALUMET - An original dance-drama about the 1913 copper strike will premiere at the Calumet Theatre this weekend.
"For They Are Women's Children" opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, with a follow-up performance scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday.
The play is a collaboration between choreographer Donna Armistead and composer Robin ye. Armistead said the play started in a causal conversation over coffee with ye 17 years ago.
Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
Center, Donna Armistead, playing Mother Jones, talks with Erik Berryman, playing an organizer from the Western Federation of Miners, during a dress rehearsal of “For They Are Women’s Children,” a contemporary ballet about the 1913 copper strike. It debuts at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Calumet Theatre. The work includes many of the notable figures of the strike, including Anna “Big Annie” Clemenc, as played by Anna Daavettila, holding the American flag at far left.
The strike setting was a fertile one for generating ideas, Armistead said.
"I thought it would lend itself well to a dance idiom," she said. "It just conjured up all these intense scenes."
With the centennial of the strike arriving, Armistead thought it would be a good time to revisit the idea. Armistead saw a posting from the Michigan Technological University Archives and Historical Collections that was seeking projects related to the strike.
"We went to a meeting and that was that," she said.
Armistead said the work incorporates contemporary ballet and modern dance as well as acting and dramatic narrative. Rehearsals have been going on since the start of summer. ye has been writing the music, giving Armistead movements to create dances as he completes them. ye is also conducting a five-piece ensemble for the performances.
"It's a very good score," Armistead said. "The music is wonderful. The score is quite challenging choreographically, but I'm having fun with it."
The cast of 40 has children as young as 6, as well as adults, Armistead said.
"The parents are fired up, the actors are fired up," she said. "They're just putting their heart and soul into their product. Some of them who didn't know much were excited to learn more about the history. This is probably the most significant historic event that occurred up here."
Some also have a personal connection to the material. One actress in the play is the great-granddaughter of a survivor of the Italian Hall disaster. Wednesday night was the first dress rehearsal for the play. Rehearsals have gone "very, very well," Armistead said.
"I think it's going to be a great show," she said.