Plan-B Theatre Company’s world premiere
of ONE BIG UNION, about folk hero and labor activist Joe Hill, opens November
10. The full run is already sold out so performances have been added on Sundays
November 13 and 20 at 5:30pm. Tickets and details at planbtheatre.org.
ONE BIG UNION is the fourth play by Utah
playwright Debora Threedy to premiere at Plan-B, following THE END OF THE
HORIZON, WALLACE and THE THIRD CROSSING.
Actor Roger Dunbar shares his thoughts
about his year-long journey preparing to play Joe Hill.
It was over a
year ago when Jerry Rapier approached me about playing Joe Hill in Debora
Threedy’s new play ONE BIG UNION. My response was “Who is Joe Hill?” followed
by “Wait, November 2016?!” The date seemed so far away at the time, and if you
had asked me then to describe the process in a single word, it would have been “Long.”
initial introduction to ONE BIG UNION I have been involved with the original
workshop with Plan-B, followed by a reading of the play this summer at the Utah
Shakespeare Festival’s New American Playwrights Project, and finally the full
performance which will open this month at Plan-B Theatre Company. As time has
marched on, I feel that my single-word description of the process has evolved
from “Long” to “Growth.” I now realize that time has been an essential
ingredient in absorbing such a rich historical figure as Joe Hill. I am now
very grateful for the extensive process so that all of the stories, the
letters, the books and articles on Joe’s history, character, trial, and
execution have had a chance to seep into my consciousness and craft. I will of
course never meet Joe Hill, but it feels as if he has grown from a mere legend
to a close friend.
particular area of personal growth over the last year has been as a musician.
Joe Hill played several instruments, including the piano, violin, and guitar.
Thank heavens that the only requirement for this staged version of Joe is a
basic knowledge of the guitar! But even that basic level of proficiency has
made me very grateful for an entire year of practice. I started out at the
initial workshop barely able to finger pluck the basic chords patterns. David
Evanoff, our talented musical director, encouraged me to grow by using a pick
(which I had never done before), and to fill the entire theater with bold sound
and confidence. Thank goodness I’ve had a year of preparation.
of growth has been in my connections with other artists. I had never worked
with Plan-B before the first workshop, and I had previously only worked with
one of the other actors in the cast. I am now pleased to count many more people
as friends and fellow artists: stage managers, designers, producers, and
actors. And not only at Plan-B, but also an entirely separate cast and crew at
the Utah Shakespeare Festival. I can’t think of another theatrical endeavor
that has introduced me to so many talented new friends and acquaintances. It
was fascinating to go from the Plan-B cast to the USF cast and back again, and
see all of the characters portrayed so differently. The variety that the
different casts brought to the table has given depth and perspective to my
relationship with Joe.
Lastly, it has been very interesting watching
the growth of the script itself. I’ve been blessed to get to know Debora
Threedy during this adventure, and it’s been a pleasure to witness the
evolution of the play. I have watched the painstaking revision process as rough
corners are hewn off, and conversely at times when rough textures are
reintroduced to surfaces that have grown too smooth. I am grateful for the past
year, watching this little tree of a story mature and evolve, and I am excited
to share its fruits with the community.
Roger Dunbar will be playing Joe Hill in ONE BIG UNION at Plan-B Theatre Company.