Remembering pp 85-100 | Cite as

Memory and Performance in Staging The Line in Milwaukee: A Play About the Bitter Patrick Cudahy Strike of 1987–1989

  • Michael Gordon
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Oral History book series (PSOH)

Abstract

In plays based extensively on oral history interviewees help to shape how the plays depict their lives and the events they remember. Interviewees’ memories provide details and perceptions that can determine the interpretive authority of the play and provide engagement and immediacy. Yet in developing scripts about historical events that use oral interviews, playwrights should not rely on individual and collective memories alone, not just because memory can be unreliable, but also because evidence from written and other sources may be needed to create scripts that reflect history’s complexity and depth. For these reasons, playwrights will find it helpful to work closely with historians, and with interviewees and the cast. This kind of collaboration can result in plays about history that are both good theater—and good history.

Keywords

Depression Steam Transportation Rubber Assure 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Patrick Cudahy Ink, April 1977, March 1980, Summer 1985; Mary Becker and Del Hauenstein, Patrick Cudahy: A Journey through the Past, Present, and Future (Milwaukee: Patrick Cudahy, Inc., 1990), pp. 2–4, 13, 15–16.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Author’s oral history interview with Roger Kapella and Dan Habighorst, October 5, 1994, Cudahy, Wisconsin, for the Patrick Cudahy Strike and Plant Closing of 1987–1989 Oral History Project, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Urban Archives, Tape 1, Sides 1 and 2; Tape 2, Side 1 (all interviews cited hereafter are in the Cudahy Oral History Project); Hardy Green, On Strike at Hormel: The Struggle for a Democratic Labor Movement (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990), pp. 32, 292; Milwaukee Journal, June 17, 1986; “Patrick Cudahy/Local P-40 Negotiations” (bargaining log), November 10 and 18, December 3–5, 9, 11, 15–16, 1986, Patrick Cudahy Case Files, National Labor Relations Board, Region 30, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (hereinafter referred to as Cudahy Case Files, NLRB Region 30); “Final Offer for an Agreement between Patrick Cudahy, Incorporated, and United Food and Commercial Workers, International Union Local P-40,” December 31, 1986, 3, 6, 34–43, Exhibits “A” and “B,” and passim.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    John Schneider, The Line (Milwaukee: Theater X, 1996 [unpublished]) 39–40, 42, 43, 46–47, 56 (Sharon and supervisor), 35 (Marie). Excerpts are from oral history interviews with Sharon Swaner, August 2, 1994, New Berlin, Wisconsin, Tape 1, Sides 1 and 2, Tape 2, Side 1; and Marie Machniewicz, July 20, 1994, Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Tape 1, Side 1. For the most part, characters are named after the actual interviewees whose words they speak. In one case, several perspectives seemed to blend easily into a single voice. We named this person after one of the people in the composite.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Michael Frisch, A Shared Authority: Essays on the Craft and Meaning of Oral and Public History (Albany: SUNY Press, 1990), xxii–xxiii.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    Historians and others have long been interested in how generational memory shapes working-class identity and consciousness. Studies of people who lived through the upheavals of the 1930s to the 1970s especially have noted how events in those years shaped values and political views in subsequent years. John Bodnar has challenged this “deterministic paradigm” by arguing that generational memory is formed by individual and collective experiences over time, and not solely by cataclysmic events like the Depression or the antiwar and civil rights movements of the 1960s. He views generational memory “as the result of long-term encounters with economic forces and powerful authorities.” “Regardless of the past,” he adds, “generational views are also under constant review and discussion in the present.” Bodnar, “Generational Memory in an American Town,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 26 (1996): 636.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  13. 12.
    Katherine Marie Dudley, The End of the Line: Lost Jobs, New Lives in Postindustrial America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), chap. 9.Google Scholar
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    Elizabeth A. Fones-Wolf, Selling Free Enterprise: The Business Assault on Labor and Liberalism, 1945–1960 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).Google Scholar
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    There are many useful studies that shed light on workers and unions in the postwar years and after, though not all of those cited here interpret workers’ experiences as I do. See Walter Galenson, The American Labor Movement, 1955–1995 (Westport, CT Greenwood, 1996);Google Scholar
  16. Kim Moody, An Injury to All: The Decline of American Unionism (New York: Verso, 1988), chap. 2;Google Scholar
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  26. and Katherine S. Newman, Falling from Grace: The Experience of Downward Mobility in the American Middle Class (New York: Free Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  27. See also Rick Fantasia, Cultures of Solidarity: Consciousness, Action, and Contemporary American Workers (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Della Pollock 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Gordon

There are no affiliations available

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