NEW YORK — Talented young African American playwright Melody Cooper’s historical drama, “Day of Reckoning,” chronicles the lives of famed anarchist and freed slave, Lucy Parsons, and her husband, Albert, a former Confederate soldier. The two-act historical drama features playwright Cooper playing Lucy. Along with Albert, she fought for workers’ rights and the eight-hour workday.
“Day of Reckoning,” which won the Jane Chambers Award and the MultiStages 2003 New Works Playwriting Contest, focuses on the lives of two very different people, whose tragic love story is set against the backdrop of the earliest — and deadliest — days of labor organizing.
Across the U.S., people were calling for an eight-hour workday, proclaiming, “whether you work by the piece or work by the day, decreasing the hours increases your pay.” May 1 was chosen as the date to kick off the official movement for the eight-hour day.
As a result, 350,000 workers across the nation walked off their jobs to participate in a general strike. Forty thousand workers struck in Chicago, creating a whirlwind of radical activity.
On May 3, a strike at Chicago’s McCormick Harvest Works became violent as police fired into a crowd of unarmed strikers. Many were wounded and four were killed. Radicals called a meeting in Haymarket Square to discuss the situation. Police disrupted the peaceful meeting and an unknown figure threw a bomb, killing one officer. One of the worst violations of U.S. civil rights occurred over the next few days, as police swept the town looking for any and all anarchists and radicals. Although he was not even at Haymarket Square that day, Albert was one of the eight men accused of the bombing.
Cooper, a native of New York City and graduate of Adelphi University, is an accomplished actress and author of several stage works. While at Adelphi, she collaborated (as lyricist) with the late Jonathan Larson (the Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning creator of “Rent”) on a number of songs for the stage.
“Day of Reckoning” opens Friday, Feb. 4 and closes Sunday, Feb. 27. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m. “Day of Reckoning” is the second production in a three-play Black History Month festival at the All Stars Project’s performing arts and education center, 543 W. 42nd St., between 10th and 11th avenues. Tickets are $15. Group, senior and student discounts available. Box office (212) 941-1234. Tickets available at www.castillo.org and www.theatermania.com.