"Pray for the dead, but fight like hell for the living." ~ Mother "Mary Harris" Jones
My name is Mary Gannon Graham. I am an actress/singer/director/and teacher of drama in Northern California and I, along with my fellow cast mates and musicians are raising money to take our show, Mother Jones in Heaven, to the Dublin Tiger Fringe Festival in Ireland in September of 2016.
Mother Jones was an iconic feminist activist, a community and labor organizer and an Irish immigrant who stood up for the rights of coal miners, factory workers, women and children, helping to shape the child labor laws that we as Americans hold up today as a standard to the rest of the world. Mother Jones lost her husband and four children to the yellow fever epidemic of 1867, then in 1871, she lost everything she owned to the great Chicago fire. She found her way to the Union Halls and there she started her life’s work of helping and fighting for those in need.
The story: Mother Jones has died and wakes up in Heaven, which to her delight turns out to be an Irish Pub. She defends her life and tells her tale through music and storytelling.
Written by Si Kahn, civil rights activist, labor and community organizer and founder of The National progressive organization, Grassroots Leadership, and performed by Mary Gannon Graham, award winning actress and teacher, along with musicians, Jim Peterson, Tim Sarter, Roxanne Oliva, and Rebecca Richman, this is an important performance piece honoring the Work of Mother Jones and the legacy of all immigrants and working people.
Sonoma County is home to an amazing, award winning community theater culture. As theater in Sonoma County continues to grow and develope new audiences, projects like this are important for three reasons; the promotion of our local talent, to bring the spotlight on the artistic development inherent in Sonoma County Theater, and the cultural exchange of ideas with the national and international community. Main Stage West exemplifies and is striving for all three, by producing high quality plays, supporting artistic exchange, and allowing local Sonoma County talent to shine as it brings forth new works.
The funds we raise will help take this cast and crew to the Fringe Festival in Dublin, Ireland. The monies will go for entrance fee to the festival, the cost of finding a venue, plane fare and accomodations for the two weeks we will be in Ireland. We are hoping to raise $35,000.00 by August 31st 2016.
I do not send this GoFund me request out lightly. I understand that we all work hard for our money and save what we can just to live in this world. But I believe strongly in the transformative power of art, theatre and music to change the world, to open minds and hearts, to give people a new experience, new ideas and ways of seeing the world we live in and the positive changes we can make together.
Few people get out of this life without pain and suffering. But it does not have to define us. It can instead inspire us. Mary Harris Jones, aka Mother Jones, is a great source of inspiration for me. I have not suffered as much as she did, but I have known great loss and despair.
Losing my beloved Husband Thomas two years ago on July 23rd was a turning point in my life, he was everything to me, and suddenly he was gone. Everything now is identified as before and after that event.
Mother turned to the Unions Halls, they became her sanctuary, her church. I turned to the Theatre and music, my sanctuary, my church.
To me this play is not only the story about one of the greatest, bravest and most prominent labor and community organizers in history; it is a hero’s journey. Courage, as I am reminded everyday, is not about not having fear, it is about being afraid and doing what needs to be done anyway.
Mother asks us to be accountable, to stand up for what is right, to fight against what is wrong, and to help those in need.
There is so much change happening in our world right now, so much awakening and at the same time so much fear and ignorance causing harm to innocent people and communities. We are deeply out of balance as a society, we have swung so far off course in one direction, that perhaps we need to swing the other way to come back to center. I was lamenting to a friend recently that I wished I could be more of an activist, she said I was an activist because I am an artist. My theatre is my protest, my stand, my wooden box. So here I am trying to be the change I want to see in the world one play at a time.
I wish to thank you, with all of my heart, for any contribution you can make to help us share this important story of a woman, who against all odds, transformed not only her world, but the world around her.