The Cradle Will Rock
by Marc Blitzstein
Myrna Wyatt Selkirk, Paul Keenan and the entire Production Team would like to acknowledge the extraordinary generosity of our donors: Jeffrey Richstone, Mark Wilson and Ms. Missus. Without them, The Cradle Will Rock would have remained a lovely but unrealized daydream.
The Cradle Will Rock has been a dream collaboration: directors with complementary skill sets; extraordinarily open and gifted actors; and a generous and talented design and production team. This is an ongoing collaboration that will continue until the final performance.
The story of the play’s premiere is fascinating – four days before it was to premiere, the United States government tried to stop its performance by padlocking the theatre and surrounding it with armed guards. But the show must go on, and it did – in an unauthorized performance – and so was born the legend of one of the greatest political plays of all time.
To quote Orson Welles, the director of the first production:
I started producing Marc Blitzstein’s music drama the minute it was written almost two years ago, and I have been producing it almost incessantly ever since.
It is unnecessary to review the fabulous stage history of The Cradle Will Rock. It is enough to say that it has survived, untarnished, as many proposed and supposed productions as I would like to remember, particularly as they were all mine.
I have produced it in different theatres here in the metropolitan district, and out in the steel towns, with different casts and in different ways. I have produced it with and without benefit of orchestra, on illuminated glass wagons, and even in the audience, with and without the audience.
I have produced it…with and without permission of four theatrical managements, including our own United States Government.
This makes me undisputed world authority on producing The Cradle Will Rock.
I put this claim in print because and not in spite of the significant circumstance that The Cradle Will Rock in its second Broadway run is enjoying its most brilliant success in the entire absence of any production what so ever.
The work is apparently indestructible. And what is most interesting, it is certainly entirely new.
The arts of Music and the Play have had efficient business relationships in the past, an occasional partnership and a few happy marriages. Here, finally, is their first offspring. It is a love-child, and besides being legitimate, it looks like both its parents, and it is called a “music drama.”
As a matter of fact, it isn’t easy to find a title for a new art form.
Just now of course this one has only one real name: The Cradle Will Rock.
January 10, 1938
Myrna Wyatt Selkirk & Paul Keenan
From Inside The Cradle Will Rock
by Scott Miller
Oh What a Night (The story of the opening night of The Cradle Will Rock)
On the morning of June 16, opening night, the Federal Theatre Project began calling the press, announcing the cancellation of The Cradle Will Rock. Armed guards (Houseman referred to them as “Cossacks”) were posted at the theatre to make sure no one removed sets, costumes, props, or anything else paid for by the Federal Theatre Project – including actor Howard Da Silva’s toupée. Houseman spent the day calling the press, telling them the show would indeed open in another theatre, which he still had not found. Actors’ Equity, the actors’ union, informed Welles that as long as the actors in Cradle were employees of the Federal Theatre Project, they could not appear on any stage that wasn’t officially sanctioned by the Project. The musicians’ union then told Welles that if they moved to another theatre, they could no longer pay the musicians the reduced pay rate allowed for the Federal Theatre Project. Welles and Houseman would have to pay the musicians full union scale, as well as back pay for rehearsals, and he would have to hire more musicians in accordance with the standard Broadway contract. There was no way Welles and Houseman could afford this.
So Welles came up with a plan – the actors would come to the new theatre (wherever it might be), sit in the audience, and when the time came, perform their roles from the house. Of course, many of the actors were not comfortable with this plan, convinced that they would lose their jobs with the Federal Theatre Project. Jobs were just too hard to come by in 1937.
Still, Welles and Houseman insisted the show could go on, without sets, without lights, without an orchestra, perhaps even without the cast. They planned to put Blitzstein onstage at a piano (he was not a member of the musicians’ union) to play the whole score and even sing it all if necessary. They sent an assistant, Jean Rosenthal (later an award winning Broadway lighting designer), to go find a piano and a truck and just keep driving around Manhattan until they could book another theatre.
By late afternoon, the press and hundreds of ticket holders began gathering outside the theatre. Some of the cast came outside and performed for them to keep them occupied. A few minutes before eight o’clock, a theatre was found, the Venice, twenty-one blocks uptown, for a rental fee of $100. They sent the assistant up there with the piano, and they led the crowd, now swelling to even greater numbers, on a twenty-one block march uptown to the Venice, picking up hundreds more along the way. The show began at 8:50 p.m., with Blitzstein alone on stage and a single follow spot focused on him.
As Blitzstein began singing the first song, he heard a small voice begin to sing along out in the house, and the follow spot swung out in the audience to illuminate Olive Stanton, a novice actress in her first show, who was playing the role of Moll. Once she had done this, slowly, one by one, the actors stood when their cues came and ended up playing the whole show in and among the audience, never venturing onstage. Though most of the cast had come to the Venice, Blitzstein sang eight of the roles that night, while some of the actors doubled up on other roles. Occasionally during the evening, the one musician who had come along, an accordion player, would stand up where he sat and play along with the solo piano. When the finale of the show ended, the audience went wild, cheering and screaming for what seemed like forever. Not only had New York seen the premiere of an exciting new musical by a gifted writer and composer, these lucky people had witnessed the birth of a theatrical legend.
This 25 minute interview with Marc Blitzstein is also interesting. He discusses The Cradle Will Rock and tells the famous story of opening night. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMfyrqRbDOA
The movie Cradle Will Rock written and directed by Tim Robbins, is a fascinating account of the first production and contemporary setting of The Cradle Will Rock.
Wednesday, November 22nd to Friday, November 24th
Thursday, November 30th to Saturday, December 2nd
$12 General Admission
Please note: There is one Saturday performance on December 2nd
Moyse Hall Theatre, McGill University, Arts Building
853 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal
Box Office: (514) 398-6070
publicity.english [at] mcgill.ca
Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheatreMcGill
Director Myrna Wyatt Selkirk
Musical Director Pianist Paul Keenan
Production Manager Corinne Deeley
Technical Director Keith Roche
Head of Wardrobe Catherine Bradley
Assistant Musical Director Pianist Emmanuel Eustache
Stage Manager Abi Quinlan
Assistant Stage Manager Kazuho Sakai
Set Designer John MacKay
Lighting Designer Keith Roche
Costume Designers Costuming for the Theatre Class
Nose/Poster Designer Katey Wattam
Choreographer Asha Bittenbender
Publicity Sean Carney
English Department Webmaster Juan Ortiz-Apuy
Arly Abramson as Editor Daily, Sadie
Leslie Beedell as Mr. Mister, Dick
Hannah Cheslock as Workers Chorus
Maddy Corvino as Professor Mamie, Mrs. Mister, Junior Mister
Mitchel Csmerak as Moll
Corinne Darche as Workers Chorus
Emmanuel Eustache as Pianist, Clerk, Attendant (Thursdays)
Kateryna Fylypchuk as Workers Chorus
Cassidy Gordon as Workers Chorus, Cop
Paul Keenan as Pianist, Clerk, Attendant
Tyler Kowch as Harry Druggist
Caeleigh MacDonald as Workers Chorus
Amanda Marra as Dauber, Reporter 2
Caroline Portante as Workers Chorus
Chloé Reddy as President Prexy
Sofia Reidbord as Sister Mister, Ella
Tristen Sutherland as Dr. Specialist
Mattias Tomé as Reverend Salvation, Gent, Bugs
Kate Urquhart as Yasha, Reporter 1, Stevie
Nick Vecchione as Larry Foreman, Gus
Luz Adriana Monsalve Castro
Zhuoyi Anthony Zhang
Work Study Assistants
Arly Abramson (Sadie, Editor Daily) is a U0 student from Toronto who does not know her major yet but is studying in the Faculty of Arts. Past theatre credits include The Theory of Relativity (Mira), Pippin (Catherine), Urinetown: The Musicall (Hope), Legally Blonde (Elle), The Who’s Tommy (Sally). This is her first production at McGill, so she is very excited for this show! Thanks to Myrna, Paul, the rest of the creative team, and the entire cast for making this such a great experience!
Leighton Balagno (Costume Crew) is a U3 student studying International Development and Communication Studies. This is her first experience costuming for a theatrical production, but she grew up with a deep appreciation for the performing arts. In addition to this, Leighton is passionate about fashion and costume design and looks to pursue it as a future career.
Leslie Beedell (Mr. Mister, Dick) is an ex-McGill student who has spent his year since graduating in the cutthroat corporate world. With these "real world" experiences he now comes back to play the role of Mr. Mister. His interests include theatre, and music. He also plays the role of the Dick which has no similarities to his real life persona.
Asha Bittenbender (Choreographer), U2, Theatre and Political Science, has appeared in Sing the Brave Song (McGill Education Dept.), The Rover (McGill English Dept.), End of the Line (Inertia), and several TVM films. She is a proud member of TVMcGill and the Inertia Modern Dance Collective. It was an honor and a pleasure to choreograph for this talented cast.
Catherine Bradley (Head of Wardrobe) teaches Costuming and History of Costume in the Department of English. She recently founded the Textile Resource Center, an online resource which houses her textile dictionary, weave guide, and a new terminology guide. Catherine has had the pleasure of working with a very dedicated team on this production of The Cradle Will Rock. Catherine wishes to thank the generous private donors who made this ambitious production possible.
Hannah Cheslock (Worker's Chorus) is a U1 student majoring in English: Drama & Theatre and double-minoring in Religion and European Literature. Some of Hannah’s past theatre credits include Orestes, Yesterday an Incident Occurred, King John, The Lottery, To Burn a Witch, Rent, and Grease. Hannah is very excited to be making her McGill theatre debut in The Cradle Will Rock as a member of the Worker’s Chorus.
Maddy Corvino (Mrs. Mister, Junior Mister and Professor Mamie) is a U0 student in the Faculty of Arts. A few of her previous theatre credits include Spring Awakening (musical), Fen, and As You Like It. She is excited to be making her Moyse Hall debut this semester in The Cradle Will Rock.
Mitchel Csermak (Moll) is a U1 student studying Honours English-Drama & Theatre and Linguistics. This is Mitchel’s first semester at McGill and he is overjoyed to be in the production of The Cradle Will Rock. His past theatre credits include The Mousetrap, The Great Gatsby, Little Shop of Horrors, The Sound of Music, Gypsy, Aida, Almost, Maine, and A Wrinkle in Time.
Corinne Darche (Workers’ Chorus) is a U1 student, majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Music. Her past theatre credits include The Addams Family and The Wizard of Oz. She has thirteen years of music training, including piano, alto saxophone, and voice. Corinne is happy to be returning to the stage and making her debut in McGill Theatre with The Cradle Will Rock.
Christina Dovolis (Costume) is a U3 student at McGill University, majoring in English Cultural Studies and Urban Geography. She is jazzed to be costuming for The Cradle Will Rock, as it is her first McGill Theatre production. She also involved in Television McGill and McGill’s Symphonic band.
Patrick Drummond (Lighting) is a U3 Arts/Science student in Urban Studies and Geographic Information Systems. He has no previous theatre experience, and is excited for The Cradle Will Rock to be his first show.
Emmanuel Eustache (Assistant Musical Director, Alternate Clerk) has studied classical and jazz piano for twelve years. Through CÉGEP he dove into various musical fields going from baroque music to progressive rock. Now majoring in jazz performance at the Schulich School of Music of McGill, he takes every chance to learn from artistic encounters.
Kateryna Fylypchuk (Workers' Chorus) is a U1 student majoring in English-Drama & Theatre at the McGill University. She has been involved in numerous high school musicals, such as Les Miserables and Chicago, and she has experience in dance and classical voice, both of which she studied for over twelve years.
Madeleine Gilbert (Costume Crew) is a U2 student studying Finance and Computer Science. Although she is not studying drama, she is passionate about theatre and its production. She has past experience in designing and creating womenswear and is looking forward to exploring costume design.
Cas Gordon (Cop, Worker's Chorus) is a U2 student in their third consecutive year of a Cognitive Science degree, with a Drama & Theatre minor, performing in Moyse Hall for the third time. Utilizing previous vocal training, Cas has also sung in Savoy Society's production of The Pirates of Penzance, as well as their spring Cabaret. Other acting credits (at McGill) include Douglas Theatre Company's No Exit, and the Directors’ Project's How I Learned to Drive.
Jacqueline Hampshire (Costume Crew) is a U3 student studying Art History and Geography & Urban Systems. This is Jacqueline’s first time costuming for the theatre and she looks forward to learning more about the creative process of a theatre production behind the scenes.
Aida Jamil (Props Designer) is a U2 World Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies student. Some of her past theatre credits include Our Country's Good, The Pillowman, Far Away, Mojo, Pravda, and most recently Owners. After assistant stage managing last semester's Richard III, Aida is excited to learn about a different element of the process.
Hilary Jay (Costume crew) is a 4th year student in Philosophy and Art History. This is her first experience with costuming in theatre, and she is looking forward to learning with everyone involved in The Cradle Will Rock.
Paul Keenan (Musical Director, Clerk, Attendant) has worked as a director, composer and musical director for many théâtres in Canada (Les Productions de la lune verte, Centre national des arts du Canada, Zeitgeist, Neptune, Centaur, Black Theatre Workshop), Ireland (The Abbey Theatre, Samuel Beckett Theatre) and Italy (The Arezzo Festival). He has taught at the Conservatoire d’art dramatique de Montréal, The National Theatre School of Canada, Trinity College Dublin, the Berliner Schule für Schauspiel, the Accademia dell’arte (Arezzo, Italy) and begins teaching in the École supérieure de théâtre at UQAM in January.
Tyler Kowch (Harry Druggist) is a U1 student in Political Science and Economics. In the past, he enjoyed roles in The Laramie Project, The Addams Family, Peter and the Catcher, and Macbeth. Although Tyler isn't a drama major, he is excited to be back on stage performing in The Cradle Will Rock.
Sian Lathrop (Lighting) is one of the lighting operators for the McGill production of The Cradle Will Rock. She is a U1 Theatre and Philosophy major at McGill. She previously acted in the last Department of English play The Rover but this is her first time on the other side of the curtain.
Amanda Marra (Dauber, Reporter 2) is a U1 student studying Linguistics and English-Drama & Theatre. She has trained in theatre, dance and song at Montreal based technique schools such as Danse123 and MSOPA. She has had the opportunity to perform musical numbers on the Rialto Theatre stage as part of the Musical Show Off competition and is delighted to be working with the cast and crew of The Cradle Will Rock for her first acting experience at McGill.
John MacKay (Set Designer) is a second year student at McGill in the Department of English. He has directed or performed in other productions such as Alice in Wonderland, Wild Oats, and The Happy Club. Last year he helped build the set for Moyse Hall's critically acclaimed production of Richard III, and has returned this year as set designer for The Cradle Will Rock.
Caeleigh McDonald (Worker’s Chorus) is a U2 student currently pursuing a double major in Drama & Theatre and Political Science. She has most recently appeared in the Côte St Luc Dramatic Society’s production of Little Shop of Horrors as an Urchin. Other productions include AUTS’s productions of Rent and Heathers as Ensemble, as well as TNC’s production of Stop, Kiss as Mrs. Winsley/Nurse.
Luz Adriana Monsalve Castro (Set Crew) is a Colombian Arts and Science Bachelor student (Molecular Biology and International Development Studies double major) finishing her last year of studies at McGill University. She is a visual artist who explores mental illness through charcoal, acrylic and oil paint. Luz Adriana is also a violinist; she lives and exists through her art. Luz Adriana is thrilled to join The Cradle Will Rock team as a part of the set crew.
James Pallotto (Costume Crew) is a U1 student in Psychology and Drama & Theatre. This is James' first time working on a project as part of a costume crew and he is looking forward to working with the cast and crew on this production!
Caroline Portante (Worker’s Chorus) is in her third year at McGill University double majoring in Sociology and Gender, Sexuality, Feminist, and Social Justice Studies. This is her first production with the Department of English, after doing two productions with the Arts Undergraduate Theatre Society, and one production with Players’ Theatre. In addition to her experience as an actress and singer, Caroline is a contemporary and hip hop dancer, a choreographer, a violinist and a pianist. Past credits at McGill University include Heathers, RENT, and The Original and professional show credits include The Speakeasy San Francisco.
Abi Quinlan (Stage Manager) is a double major in International Development Studies and Cultural Studies in her final year of study. This is her first McGill Theatre production and she is excited to try her hand at stage management. She congratulates the cast and crew of The Cradle Will Rock on a fantastic show!
Chloé Reddy (President Prexy) is a singer, musician, and improviser and a U1 student studying Music and Software Engineering. She is a recent alumni of the City of Pleasanton’s Creatures of Impulse Teen Improv Troupe, which performed at the West Coast Improv Music Festival. This past summer, she vocally directed Beauty and the Beast Jr. and played guitar and piano in the pit for School of Rock. Chloé is super excited to be making her McGill debut with an amazing show and lovely cast!
Sofia Reidbord (Sister Mister, Ella) is 19 years old and a second-year student at McGill University, majoring in Drama & Theatre. This is Sofia’s first Department of English show at McGill after having performed in the Arts Undergraduate Theatre Society Production of Heathers earlier this year. Sofia has been dancing for thirteen years, beginning in classical ballet and has branched out to many other dance forms. As a trained singer and violinist, Sofia is very musically oriented and has a deep passion for acting both onstage and on camera. Over the past few years, Sofia has performed in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Evita, The Drowsy Chaperone, My Favorite Year, Out of Frying Pan, All Shook Up, Is He Dead?, The Three Musketeers, Fiddler on The Roof, and Bye Bye Birdie while also expanding her film repertoire.
Lauriane Rouleau-Delage (Costume Crew) is taking the Costuming for the Theatre class for her last year as a U3 student double majoring in Translation and East Asian Studies. She is passionate about cosplaying and is proud of her previous projects: Steins Gates and Lagertha from Vikings. She is hoping to participate for the third time in the Montreal ComicCon next summer and mostly looking forward to improving her skills and techniques this year as a member of the costume crew!
Saif Elkhoy (Set Crew) is a fourth year Computer Engineering student with a prominent passion for the theatre's technical aspect. He's excited to be involved in this year's production of The Cradle Will Rock. As he will be working on the set, he hopes it will be precise, and aesthetically pleasing.
Kazuho Sakai (Assistant Stage Manager) is an U2 international student majoring in English-Cultural Studies and East Asian Studies. Although having experienced acting in theatre, this production is her first time as a member of the backstage crew. With a great passion and love for the stage, Kazuho challenges herself to become a needed supporting member of the company and enjoys sharing stage management duties for The Cradle Will Rock with Abi.
Amita Symons-Yu (Costume Crew) is a U2 student studying Urban Systems, Environment, and World Cinemas. She is very excited to be working on The Cradle Will Rock, which is the first production she for which has costumed.
Myrna Wyatt Selkirk (Director) is an Associate Professor at McGill University where she teaches acting and directing. A few of the productions she has directed at McGill: Richard III, The Vibrator Play, Blue Planet, Cloud 9, A Dream Play, The Good Person of Sichuan, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Merchant of Venice, Zadie’s Shoes, The Sea, Tooth and Nail, Bonjour la Bonjour, Twelfth Night and Life and Limb. Myrna’s work and play is heavily influenced by an intense study of and fascination with clown and mask in both training and performance.
Xin Shu (Costume Crew) is a U2 student at McGill University, studying Drama & Theatre, Economics, and Psychology. This is her first time costuming, and she is excited to be involved with The Cradle Will Rock. Xin is also acting in Imago Artista’s May show, entitled Home and Belonging. Her other hobbies include photography and Chinese classical dance.
Tristen Sutherland (Dr. Specialist) is a U3 student studying English Literature and Political Science. She is a player at McGill Improv and her past theatre credits include Thyestes and The Wizard of Oz.
Mattias Tome (Reverend Salvation, Gent, Bugs) is a U0 Arts student planning to study Literature in the Department of English. His past theatre credits include How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, The Addams Family, and The Comedy of Errors. Mattias is delighted to perform the roles of Reverend Salvation, Gent, and Bugs in The Cradle Will Rock, and to have the opportunity to be a part of presenting Marc Blitzstein’s subversive piece of musical theatre.
Kate Urquhart (Yasha, Reporter), is a U1 English Drama & Theatre major at McGill University. Some of her previous productions include Hamlet, The Tempest, Faith Healer and Boeing-Boeing. This is not only her first musical, but her first show at McGill University. After taking the year off, Kate is excited to be back on stage.
Nick Vecchione (Gus, Larry Foreman) is a U0 student in the Faculty of Arts. This is his first production with the Department of English at McGill University. In high school, Nick performed in a wide range of roles including The Dentist in Little Shop of Horrors, Romeo in Romeo and Juliet and Uncle Fester in The Addams Family. This past summer he played Moritz Stiefel in Spring Awakening with The New Jersey Summer Theatre Workshop. Nick is very excited to be a part of The Cradle Will Rock and hopes everyone enjoys the show.
Mei Yang (Set) is a first year student in the Stage Scenery and Lighting class hoping to study statistics as well as to continue their involvement in theatre. Shows that Mei has done in the past include Hairspray, Chicago, Once upon a Mattress, and more. The Cradle Will Rock will be a wonderful addition to her repertoire. Mei is very much looking forward to her first university production.
Zhuoyi Anthony Zhang (Costume Crew) is a U3 student studying Liberal Arts and French as a second language. He makes clothing with his grandma in the summer. During the school year, he wants to pick up designing and sewing himself, and perfect his craft while working on The Cradle Will Rock. He is currently working on Montreal’s local streetwear brand One & Only. He has also worked for the Kung Fu film, The Hidden Sword, at the Montreal World Film Festival this summer, as well as with many Montreal local production groups.
The generous private donors who made this ambitious production possible, The National Theatre School of Canada Costumier, Maggie Martin, Audrey Lee, Brendan Roche, Professor Sean Carney, Professor Sandeep Bannerjee, Professor Fiona Richie, Professor Katherine Zien and Professor Denis Salter.
Piano tuning generously donated by Kevin Hayes.