Tuesday, 18 October 2016

National reading of "It Can't Happen Here" on Monday, Oct. 24th

Over the weekend I got to see a stellar new staging of Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here at the Berkeley Repertory Theater.

The 1935 novel is prescient even in its details. I’ve re-read it several times in the last year, and I’ve been recommending it to everyone I know.

It’s rightly known as an anti-fascist work, but it’s also a paean to the power of the pen. The protagonist is the social democratic editor of a small-town newspaper in northern Vermont, and his role in the resistance to American fascism is as a propagandist.

Lewis himself was commissioned by the Federal Theatre to adapt his novel for the stage. In 1936, as one of the Federal Theatre’s experiments in using the arts to promote popular national discourse, it was produced simultaneously in more than 20 cities throughout the country.

(The Federal Theatre was a WPA arts project directed by my great-aunt, Hallie Flanagan Davis. It was eventually defunded and shut down by Congress for allegedly purveying Communist propaganda, after Aunt Hallie was unrepentant in her testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee.)

I was disappointed when I learned that the Berkeley Rep has written a new staging of the novel, rather than using Lewis’ own script. But the new adaptation is both excellent and faithful to the book — it wasn’t necessary to change even the details to make it timely and relevant.

In the spirit of the original Federal Theatre national production, the Berkeley Rep has instigated a national staged reading of the new version of “It Can’t Happen Here” this coming Monday, October 24, 2016. Dozens of professional and amateur theater companies, libraries, etc. are participating.

I encourage any of you who are able to attend one of these readings. (And if you are in the Bay Area, try to make it to the Berkeley Rep, in spite of the price. Trust me, this show is worth it, if you can afford it.) It’s a chance to celebrate engaged journalism, and to be reminded that while fascism has its American face, so does resistance to fascism.

Link | Posted by Edward on Tuesday, 18 October 2016, 11:23 (11:23 AM)
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