On April 29 and 30, the Concord Academy Performing Arts Department staged The Cradle Will Rock. This “play in music” was written in 1937 by composer Marc Blitzstein as part of the Federal Theatre Project, a New Deal program during the Great Depression to fund artistic performances.
Set in “Steeltown, USA,” the story details the corruption surrounding a town magnate, Mr. Mister, and his anti-union Liberty Committee. Blitzstein’s piece, almost entirely sung-through, takes satirical aim at the police, clergy, press, and even artists—at everyone who sells out for personal protection. In refusing a bribe, Larry Foreman, who has been trying to unionize the town’s workers, declares that in time a collective movement will rise against exploitation.
Michael Bennett, head of the Performing Arts Department and musical director of the show, describes its music as inflected by jazz, Tin Pan Alley, and cabaret songs similar to those of Bertold Brecht and Kurt Weill. CA’s 2022 production honored a tradition of performing the piece with piano accompaniment alone.
This year’s production of The Cradle Will Rock was guest directed by Sarah Shin, a Boston-trained, Brooklyn-based theater artist and co-founder of Asian American Theatre Artists of Boston (AATAB). Shin first encountered the show during a production in the fall of 2016, as the world awaited the results of the U.S. presidential election. In weighing how many societal shifts we’ve experienced since then—and, indeed, since 1937, when the play was first created— Shin wrote in the program notes, “What I wanted to hit home with the students, and with this production, is that change starts with empathy.”
“When we are able to open our hearts, use our privileges, come together and rally behind a unified message,” she said, “our collective voice has the true power to demand change for a better world for all.”