Playwright Marty Durlin learned of Emma Goldman in the 1970s. Goldman, who lived from 1869-1940, was an anarchist. Goldman came to New York City in the 1880s from Russia.
She became a popular and sometimes hated advocate for the anarchist movement in the United States. She toured the country attracting thousands with her message of the anarchist philosophy, women's rights and workers' rights.
Durlin's research of Goldman's life included her autobiography, the biography "Love, Anarchy and Emma Goldman" by Candace Falk, "In Prison" by Kate Richards O'Hare and the Emma Goldman Papers Project in Berkeley, Calif.
From her research, Durlin was drawn to write her musical play on the occasion of Goldman's 50th birthday, June 27, 1919. She was incarcerated with a two-year sentence in the Missouri State Penitentiary for Women for speaking against the draft during World War I. In the neighboring cell, was Kate Richards O'Hare a socialist found guilty of "seditious utterances." The two women with different political views became friends in prison.
In Durlin's play, Sally Kane, executive director of KVNF, portrays Goldman and Ellen Hutto, singer and musician, is O'Hare.
The musical's title comes from Goldman who wrote, "I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things."
Durlin also loved the sentiment behind Goldman's statement, "I don't want to be in your revolution if I can't dance." The story behind the comment recalls when Goldman was dancing at a party, and serious-minded comrades took offense. But, Goldman believed the whole point of anarchism was freedom. She wasn't going to give up her right to expression and joy.
"Politics should not be all serious," Durlin said recently. "Life needs to have fun and art in it, particularly art."
Durlin found Goldman did not want religion, government or society telling her what to do. If Goldman was alive today, she might be considered a cross between a libertarian and an "occupier."
"I admired her courage. She really was fearless. She was bold and witty and a riveting orator," Durlin said. For 10 years Goldman toured the U.S. Her audiences could swell to 25,000 people in attendance — some who came to boo ended up admiring her.
Goldman's father was an authoritarian and likely responsible for her setting a different course for her philosophy and life.
Imprisoned twice and jailed many times, Goldman would rather be in prison than muzzled.
She was deported in 1919, returning to Russia. At first excited about the revolution there, she soon found out that Lenin was not for free speech. She left her mother country, preferring Europe and Canada, and penned a book on her disillusionment about the Bolshevik Revolution.
For Durlin, this musical play set in the women's penitentiary gave her an opportunity to write for an all female cast. She wanted to show how women take care of one another under horrible circumstances.
"It's been an exciting project," Durlin said. "And not like anything I've done before." Durlin composed 34 pieces of music for the play.
"Beautiful Radiant Things" opens this Friday, April 13, with a gala reception at the Blue Sage Center for the Arts at 6 p.m. with the production at The Paradise Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Other performances at The Paradise Theatre will be Saturday, April 14, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, April 15, at 2 p.m., Friday-Saturday, April 20-21, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 22, at 2 p.m.
Tickets are available at KVNF and The Paradise Theatre.
The musical will be performed in Carbondale on April 18, Boulder on April 28 and Denver on April 29.