Salt Lake magazine

Lies in the Sky-Plan B Tells the Tale of Joe Hill

November 7, 2016

The story of union organizer Joe Hill’s arrest, trial and execution in 1916 at the Utah State Prison (then located where Sugar House Park sits today) has taken on a life of its own amid Utah’s loyal opposition.

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On Nov. 10, Plan B will premiere original work by playwright Debra Theedy called One Big Union in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of Hill’s death on Nov. 19. Tickets for the short run (Nov 10–20) are going fast and the company has already added two additional performances to its schedule as well as a wait list option (see below). For current details visit the Plan B site here.

Theedy’s play loosely takes the form of a Greek Tragedy, with an interchangeable chorus of workers intoning the lyrics of Hill’s words and songs throughout. It is not a musical but contains music (the play’s notes read). Hill wrote many of the protest songs of the era his prescient lyrics from the narrative’s through line. The play goes into great detail about the circumstances that led to Hill’s execution, which most believe was a frame job. But it also works to explain the time that Hill lived in. The struggle for basic workers’ rights was essentially an all-out war between organizing workers and the owners, plutocrats and oligarchs of the time (in collusion with the state). What Hill and those who came before and after him fought for, we take for granted today.

If you’ve heard about Joe Hill and want to understand not only the facts of his case but the cultural context that made him a martyr for the union movement, this play shines a light into all the dark crevices of the tale. And it’s an important tale, one that should not be forgotten. Be part of its remembrance this November.

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One Big Union runs November 10–20, 2016, at Plan B Theater Company in the Rose Waggoner Theater, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City.

It runs 80 minutes with no intermission.

Wait list — A pre-paid wait list begins in the box office one hour before the posted show time. You must be present, in person, to be added to the list. At show time, as many patrons as possible will be seated in empty seats. Patrons unable to be seated will immediately receive a full refund.

Jeremy Pugh

Jeremy Pugh is a regular Salt Lake magazine contributor who writes about theater, history, culture, the outdoors and whatever else we ask him to. He’s also the author of 100 Things to Do in Salt Lake City Before You Die, which is a book about, well, duh.

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