co-authored with Charlie McBarron; Photos courtesy Charlie McBarron
Hundreds packed the Erin Room at Chicago’s Irish American Heritage Center on November 13, for the world premier of Larry Kirwan’s one-act play, A Table For Two at The Dill Pickle. We were at capacity for this event. The audience reception was fantastic.
The play imagines a meeting of early 20th century labor icons Mother Jones and Big Jim Larkin at a Chicago pub in 1919, The conversation is about the struggle for worker's rights and an end to child labor, but it’s both funny and bittersweet, as Larkin pines to return home to his family in Ireland and Jones continues to grieve for her family, which was wiped out by a yellow fever outbreak.
Veteran Chicago actors Brigid Duffy and Will Casey played Jim Larkin and Mother Jones, respectively, while Suzy Brack played the waitress at the event.
The play came to life after two visits to Chicago Irish consulate events. About a year ago, we were honored to be invited to a meeting with Ireland's Ambassador to the U.S. Dan Mulhall. Seeing our statue committee member Brigid Duffy, who has played Mother Jones for our project, he quipped, "We should put on a show where you play Mother Jones and I play Big Jim Larkin!" Shortly after that meeting, Brigid was one of the attendees at the premier of the Broadway-bound Paradise Square, and she mentioned the proposal to Larry Kirwan, who conceived that show. Kirwan generously agreed to write the one-act play .
Brigid did the work of bringing together the actors with director Kay Martinovich. What a team, and a great combination Will Casey and Brigid made. A well-deserved enthusiastic standing ovation followed. Great performances by quintessential professionals. We gratefully acknowledge their work, and the approval of Actors Equity for producing this as a non-profit production.
Learn more about the Dill Pickle and other background history to the play in the playbook, below.
We also had bonus performances by Gavin Coyle, who started us off with a powerful There is Power in the Union, and then a masterful version of Larry Kirwan/Black 47's The Day They Set Jim Larkin Free.
Brian Weddington brought a virtuoso performance as A. Phillip Randolph. I had suggested a speech by Randolph from 1919, and then he took it, adding touches that brought it to life and were relevant to the present. It was stunning and brought another standing ovation.
Weddington & Gavin performances were arranged by Bill Fraher, a statue committee member.
The program was a fundraiser for the campaign to erect a statue of Mother Jones in her adopted hometown of Chicago. The statue has beep approved by the City of Chicago and the work on the statue its expected to begin in 2023. At the event, we announced the new location, to wild cheers of the audience.
Here is the playbook, where you can take a closer look at the talent and background of the performers and learn more about the talent that brought this staged reading performance together. We wish to thank the Irish American Heritage Center for providing this venue to us. A special shout out to Meg Ryan and specifically the contributions of Martin Quirk. We thank all those volunteers listed who helped us make this happen.