Mother Jones, a story for all generations
By Natasha Chang, News Correspondent
In the dark, she speaks. A voice that was strong, powerful and rich with an Irish accent. As the light dissolved into a brighter dim, she turned around in her rocking chair and there she was, Mary Harris Jones or rather Mother Jones; a woman who worked tirelessly for 50 years educating and organizing for the rights of workers and their families.
Brought to life by Obie, an annual off broadway award given by The Village Voice newspaper to theatre artists and groups in New York City, Kaiulani Lee’s ‘Can’t Scare Me: The Story of Mother Jones’ is an hour and ten minute one-woman show that tells the tale of a woman who spoke out during a time of great injustice for those who could not speak out for themselves and inspired those who could.
“We were excited to collaborate with an Obie award-winning actress on a production highlighting an important figure in our national history,” said Adam Kassim, program coordinator for the Northeastern University Center of the Arts. “Mother Jones blazed new ground and fought for the rights of laborers at a time when unions and women were struggling for recognition. Mother Jones embodies Northeastern’s entrepreneurial spirit.”
Actress Kaiulani Lee not only portrays Mother Jones, but also embodies the very essence of who she was, a determined woman with fire in her heart. Shown in the Studio Theatre at Curry Student Center, “this play is like a big city with a small town feel,” Kassim said. “Although its themes are hefty, the play warrants an intimate connection between the audience and the performer. The Studio Theatre was able to provide the space for that personal relationship.”
Audience members said they were transported into a different space in time where Kaiulani Lee transforms into Mother Jones.
The most surprising aspect was the use of lights and the large role it played in the narration of the story; from the dimming lights moving right to left, to enclosing Mother Jones in the blue lit cage at the corner of the stage. “The lighting was utilized to its fullest potential,” said Jodie Ng, freshman journalism major, “it made the story more powerful, and played a role in the fluidity of her storytelling.”
With the dissolving images and sounds projected on the black background, it helped to set the beginning of every story. From pictures of John D. Rockefeller to somber images of children stained with dirt in the cotton mills, each was a different story. Some might fuel her passion and would turn her into an uproar of emotion but others would bring her down to a tear-jerking moment of sorrow.
With a combination of the inspirational story of Mother Jones, the lights and the dissolving images and sounds, the viewer is taken on a roller coaster ride through heightened times of her life.
“It was definitely an eye-opener,” said Kayla Nicholson, senior psychology and education major. “It’s just mind-blowing to think that these kids weren’t given a childhood, weren’t given an education, they were just working. And it puts things into perspective into what kids really need and how they were being exploited.”
Put down your shot glasses, your books, your iPods and your phones, and go see this wonderful play about a woman whose life story should be told for generations to come. This play shows the extent of human sacrifice, pain, glory and love, and was one of the most moving and captivating plays I have ever had the experience of seeing. Kaiulani Lee’s performance of Mother Jones is a sight to behold.