Actor Karam Daoud performs in front of the ‘burning’ streetcar in the Norman Nawrocki play Women Strike! 1919-2019 Winnipeg General Strike, which was presented June 13 at the Ukrainian Labour Temple as part of the Mayworks festival.
The Winnipeg General Strike was recently brought to life in a one-act play as part of the 2019 Mayworks Festival on June 13 at the Ukrainian Labour Temple at McGregor Street and Pritchard Avenue. The Winnipeg General Strike was recently brought to life in a one-act play as part of the 2019 Mayworks Festival on June 13 at the Ukrainian Labour Temple at McGregor Street and Pritchard Avenue.
Women Strike! 1919-2019 Winnipeg General Strike, was written and directed by Montreal playwright, actor, author and musician Norman Nawrocki. The Ukrainian playwright grew up in rural Manitoba, Winnipeg’s North End and Brandon.
The play premiered in Montreal at the 14th annual International Anarchist Theatre Festival on May 21. That performance featured four Montreal actors from Babushka Theatre, a relatively new theatre troupe based in Montreal and Winnipeg.
The Winnipeg Babushka Theatre production featured three Winnipeg actors — Karam Daoud, Lorraine James and Merri-Lou Paterson. Each took on multiple roles, portraying various courageous women for a total of nine characters.
Nawrocki’s play emphasized the role that women played in the six-week strike which brought together 35,000 workers in May and June of 1919 culminating in the death of two strikers on June 21, 1919, which has been dubbed ‘Bloody Saturday’.
Nawrocki noted that “since working conditions for many women — especially marginalized, poor, immigrant or migrant workers — still haven’t changed, their fight continues.”
According to reports of the University Women’s club and the Minimum Wage Commission of 1918, women earned less than $10 a week in those days.
With quick scene and costume changes and the use of slides and photos of the actual strike projected onto a screen behind the actors, the play moved along smoothly. One of my favourite scenes featured the iconic photo of an overturned streetcar which had video images of flames superimposed onto it.
Each actor delivered their lines brilliantly, with passion and integrity. Although women at the time only made up around one-quarter of Winnipeg’s workforce, many of them, including telephone operators, joined in solidarity to support the collective bargaining goals of the building and metal trades workers.
The Ukrainian Labour Temple played a big part in the strike as it was a gathering and meeting place for North End Ukrainian-Canadian workers who worked at the CPR Shops, Vulcan Iron Works and Manitoba Bridge, among others. The building was raided by police on June 17, 1919, who searched for evidence of sedition and conspiracy.
The soundtrack featured nine selections including labour activist Joe Hill’s Rebel Girl, which he wrote in 1914 and was performed and recorded by Vivian Nawrocki. The play lasted about 45 minutes and was followed by thunderous applause by the full house.
It was a very thought-provoking evening indeed.
Doug Kretchmer is a freelance writer, artist and community correspondent for The Times. Email him at email@example.com
— Read on www.winnipegfreepress.com/our-communities/times/correspondent/Play-tells-womens-stories-of-1919-Strike-512429202.html