On Friday, Nov. 9, the Marymount Players debuted their poignant and heartbreaking Fall Production of The Triangle Factory Fire Project. With four packed performances this weekend, over 35 students contributed to the play as production assistants, stage crew, and cast members.
The Triangle Factory Fire Project, by Christopher Piehler (in collaboration with Scott Alan Evans), tells the stories of the individuals affected by the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City’s Asch Building on March 25, 1911. After a cigarette was carelessly tossed into a fabric bin, fire swept through three factory floors in 18 eighteen minutes and caused the death of 146 garment workers, most of whom were young immigrant women between the ages of 14 and 23.
The playwrights used archival materials including trial transcripts, survivor interviews, and newspaper accounts to follow the women and men affected from the fire to the courtroom and through countrywide outrage.
When The Triangle Factory Fire Project first premiered in 1984 at the Clurman Theatre in New York City, nine actors performed the roles of the 33 characters depicted in the play. In the Player’s production, the majority of Marymount’s 17 student actors each portrayed two or more roles.
During the rehearsal process, three experts led seminars and workshops for the students. Ms. Jacqueline L. Landry, Marymount’s Head of School, spoke with students about her perception of the play through the lens of social justice, while Marymount alumna Danielle Levanas ’01 led the Players in dynamic exercises and meditative writings to explore their role’s core characteristics. Social Studies Department Chair Justin Baker provided historical context about workplace conditions during the time period and the resulting reforms for worker safety that resulted from the fire.
"This play transformed my ideas of theater and pushed me further than I thought I’d go,” said cast member Clara K. ’22, who played floor girl Ethel Monick and machine operator May Levantini. “This cast and crew made the process especially wonderful for me due to their kindness and encouragement of all types of creativity."
Actor Isabelle P. ’20, who portrayed New York District Attorney prosecutor Cahrles Costwick and factory-worker operator Yetta Lubitz said her favorite part of being in The Triangle Factory Fire Project was being able to show off what the Players’ had worked hard for over the past semester.
“The rehearsal process was really tough at times,” said Isabelle. “I'm so proud of our cast, and I'm very glad to have gotten so close with the others throughout the rehearsal process.”
Senior Eiara F., who played union leader Samuel Gompers, New York City Police Officer John Meehan, and the jury foreman, found the experience, her first in theatre production, to be both memorable and impactful.
“I found a community where I learned more about myself and where I can use my energy to make art and touch the lives of those I encounter,” Eiara said.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, became, until 9/11, the deadliest workplace disaster in New York’s history and led to significant reforms.