Ludlow, the latest work at the Nimbus theater, written by Josh Cragun and directed by Liz Neerland (the two artistic directors of Nimbus) is a look at a portion of our country’s history that most people don’t know about, the Colorado Coal War and the Ludlow Massacre. I knew nothing about Ludlow going into the show, but as soon as I left the show I researched as much as I could, it is a tragic story and I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t heard of it before.
For a brief synopsis in the early 20th century coal was king, the industrialization of our country demanded great quanitites, but mining it was very dangerous. All across the country there were coal mines and coal mining towns where the company ruled everything. Out east there were some unions to ensure some basic rights for workers. Out west this was not true, where the death toll was much higher and working conditions worse. The coal miners decided to strike, which the company, headed by some of the nation’s most powerful people such as John D. Rockefeller Jr were not happy with. Company guards and the national guard were brought in to break up the strike, and the large tent city of Ludlow where many of the striking miners and their families were living.
The play tells this story by following certain individuals who were there, depicting the racial diversity of the coal mines at the time. We follow Louis Tikas (Nicholas Nelson), a Greek immigrant who is organizing the strike. Joe Williams (Richard D Woods) a descent of slaves, Ito Kotaro (Tim Komatsu) from Japan, who is saving money to bring over his family. The Valdezes, a latinx family, Pedro (Pedro Juan Fonseca), Patricia (Stephanie Ruas) and their son Rudolpho (Marcelo Mena), and the Petrucci family from Italy, Mary (Tara Lucchino) and her daughter Lucy (Anika Sage), along with many others who resided in the camp.
We also get to see the power that the women had in the west during that time that they did not have on the east coast, the power and right to vote. And despite how progressive this seems, the diversity of the community and the relative equality of the genders we also see the power that money brings. And how that over powers everything. It is not an uplifting show to see in our current times. It is a show that reminds us that the battle for equality and rights against corporations isn’t a new one, but it is a battle worth fighting.
The design of this show is very striking and also simple. The set designed by Ursula K Bowden, is a simple sloped stage on to which the tents of Ludlow are erected. Lighting design by Courtney Schmitz helps to communicate the darkness of the mine, and also the violence of the attack on Ludlow without getting too graphic. The costumes by Barb Portinga clearly set the story in the early 1900s.
The story of Ludlow seems to be one that has been forgotten by most, but thanks to theater companies like Nimbus, these important true stories are being remembered.
It can be seen at the Crane Theater in NE Minneapolis until November 19th.
More information about getting tickets can be found by clicking here.
*Photo credit: Mathieu Lindquist