Gettysburg Stage’s play marks 100 years since fire tragedy

GETTYSBURG: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City, 100 years ago this month, was one of the most tragic workplace disasters in American history. From it, however, sprang most of the workplace safety and fire codes in place today.

As part of a nationwide commemoration of the fire, which claimed 146 lives in less than half an hour, Gettysburg Stage is proud to present “The Triangle Factory Fire Project” for two weekends, beginning Friday, March 25.

In addition to ticket discounts offered to students, seniors and military, Gettysburg Stage is also offering regional firefighters, emergency management technicians, fire police and dispatchers $3 off the $15 ticket price for this production. For the first weekend, March 25 and 26, ticket sales also benefit the Gettysburg Fire Department.

In the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in March, 1911– where 500 immigrant workers from Poland, Russia and Italy toiled 14-hour days making ladies’ dresses – a cigarette is tossed into a bin of fabric scraps. Despite desperate efforts, flames sweep through the eighth, ninth and tenth floors.

Panic-stricken workers run in all directions. On the ninth floor, some make it to a fire escape, only to have it collapse beneath their weight. Others run to the exit door, but find it locked – many, including the soon-to-be married Margaret Schwartz, die with their hands on the doorknob.

Dozens leap from the windows to their deaths, shocking the crowd of onlookers gathered below. And some, by a combination of bravery and sheer luck, make it out alive. In the space of 28 minutes, the fire is under control, but 146 people, mainly young immigrant girls, have died.

The “Triangle Factory Fire Project“ script uses eyewitness accounts, court transcripts and other archival material to create a dramatic moment-by-moment account of this historic fire, the labor unrest that came before it and the social upheaval that followed.

The two-act play culminates in the manslaughter trial of the owners, Isaac Harris and Max Blanck, whose shocking acquittal inspired outrage across New York and the entire country, the repercussions of which shaped social, political and economic policies for decades to come.

“This play is not only a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Factory Fire,” says director Rebecca O’Leary, “but it is also incredibly timely, as the topics of the place of labor unions and workplace safety are still in the media spotlight today not only in the US, but around the world.”

“This show also provides an opportunity for our actors to really stretch their abilities, as most are playing three or four different characters, many of whom speak with dialects. The cast is doing extensive accent work, as well as in depth character studies, to prepare for this show.”

The cast includes Mary Grist, Stephanie Gross, David Hurlburt, Eric Jones, Patrick Keegan, Jim Krut, Jeff Leinbach, Rebecca O’Leary and Karen Saltzgiver.

Performances at the Gettysburg Fire Department’s hall at 35 North Stratton Street are at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 25 and Saturday, March 26, and at the GAR Building, 53 East Middle Street, Gettysburg, at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 1 and Saturday, April 2. To request reservations, or for bookings groups of 10 or more, contact info@gettysburgstage.org or phone 717/638-8799.

 

“The Triangle Factory Fire Project“ production is sponsored in part by the Law Offices of Charles E. Ganley, LLC.

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