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Sacco and Vanzetti, Opera, Movie and Song Inspirers, Trigger Off-Broadway Multimedia Tale by 'Mad Scientist' Joseph Silovsky

By Jon Sobel j.sobel@classicalite.com on Nov 11, 2014 03:02 PM EST

Ever since anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti went to the electric chair in 1927, their still-controversial case has inspired artists to recount and dramatize their story. Case in point: Joseph Silovksy, the "mad scientist" of New York's experimental theater scene, together with HERE's Artist Residency Program and its Dream Music Puppetry Program (under the artistic direction of Basil Twist), will be presenting Send for the Million Men, a "new work featuring original text, actual transcripts and spontaneous storytelling," December 3-13 at the Obie-winning Off-Broadway theater HERE.

The show examines the controversial executions of Sacco and Vanzetti seven years after they were convicted of murder in connection with the armed robbery of a Massachusetts shoe factory. Many argued then and since that the pair were railroaded because of anti-Italian immigrant prejudice and their anarchist politics. Half a century after the executions, then-Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation that Sacco and Vanzetti had been unfairly tried and convicted and that "any disgrace should be forever removed from their names."

However, the proclamation did not declare Sacco and Vanzetti innocent, and to this day their guilt or innocence remains uncertain.

Using animatronics, robotics, puppetry and handmade projectors, Send for the Million Men is performed by Silovsky, video designer Victor Morales and sound designer Catherine McRae. Lighting design is by Laura Mroczkowski and electronics design by Ryan Holsopple. Eric Dyer is the Associate Director.

Silovsky writes on his website, "I build machines, contraptions, puppets and puppet stages out of everything from cardboard to hacked electronics. I use those machines and puppets to tell stories of obscure, historical figures and the minutiae surrounding them."

But with Sacco and Vanzetti he has picked historical figures who have never sunk into obscurity. The story has inspired an opera, Sacco and Vanzetti, by Anton Coppola (Francis Ford Coppola's uncle), a 2006 documentary, dozens of books, and a number of plays, including Maxwell Anderson's Winterset and The Male Animal by James Thurber and Elliot Nugent, the latter adapted as a film starring Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland. It also inspired Woody Guthrie to write the song "Two Good Men" as well as the Joan Baez/Ennio Morricone song "Here's to You," composed for the film 1971 Sacco e Vanzetti and used more recently in two Metal Gear Solid video games.

It's a long way from Woody Guthrie to Metal Gear Solid V and a long way from 1927 to 2014, but some stories never seem to get old.

Send for the Million Men from here on Vimeo.

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TagsSacco and Vanzetti, Off-Broadway, Basil Twist, Joseph Silovsky, Here, anarchist, Joan Baez, Woody Guthrie