COOPER, Melody. Day of Reckoning

Art: theaterPARSONS, Lucy (Texas, 1853?-1942)albumCOOPER, Melody

Melody is the 2003 recipient of the Jane Chambers Award for Playwriting for "Day of Reckoning" which also won the MultiStages New Works Competition in NY.

"CHICAGO — The audience was moved. Many, especially the moms in the room, were moved to tears. Who evoked such a response at a lunchtime performance during the July International Labor Communications Association convention here? Lucy Parsons. Actually, actress and playwright Melody Cooper’s tender interpretation of Parsons, one of America’s unique labor heroines.

Parsons was a historic figure in the Haymarket struggles that gave birth to May Day — the International Labor Holiday — and the 8-hour day.

In Cooper’s “Day of Reckoning,” Parsons is brought to life in all her complexities. From her diverse racial identity to her marriage to ex-Confederate soldier Albert Parsons, from her commitment to radical social change to her relationship with her children, Parsons stands before her audience not as a caricature or cardboard cutout, but as a living, breathing embodiment of radical history.

In an interview with the World, Cooper explained how she developed “Day of Reckoning.”

“I came across a web page about Lucy when I was researching something else, and she fascinated me. I thought, who is this incredible Black woman that I’ve never heard of? I immediately started doing online research on her, which led me to Albert and the history of Haymarket, which I knew little about,” Cooper said.

She let her research and imagination do the rest. “Imagining how they might have met and fell in love lit the fire for the play,” she said. Parsons, an ex-slave, who also had Native American and Mexican ancestry, was born in Texas around 1853. She “hid” her African American origins “to survive,” according to Cooper. Based on her research of Texas and Reconstruction, “there were plenty of clues” to help compile the racial complexities, their radicalization and relationship. Cooper also researched Chicago and the late-1800s labor movement.

“I was able to piece together the puzzle of their private lives. And recently, I was very lucky to be contacted by Albert’s great grand-nephew, William Parsons, who has provided me with a tremendous amount of personal papers and unpublished material that stopped my heart to read,” Cooper said. Most difficult to read were the papers on Lucy and Albert’s son Albert Jr., who Lucy committed to an asylum after he volunteered for military service.

Source: People’s Weekly World. Newspaper Online