This season at New England Conservatory, 30+ concerts demonstrate just how vital music is to human struggle, and what revolution in artistic expression sounds like. Programs range from roots music to Beethoven, fight songs to anti-war anthems. Join our year-long exploration of how music speaks truth to power!

100 years after the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, are the doors unlocked?

With text by NEC liberal arts chair Patrick Keppel and music by Bradley Kemp '02, and using Bunraku-inspired tabletop puppets, Triangle is a 2011 multimedia play that explores the legacy of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in which 146 women died, many jumping to their deaths.

Jamie Moore, Finn Campman, puppeteers
Amy Carrigan, Alexandra Greenwald '04 Prep, '15 M.M., Michael Douglas Jones, Akenya Seymour '14, vocals
Allie Simpson '15, viola and vocals
Anna Patton 14 M.M., soprano clarinet
Daniel Pencer '14 M.M., bass clarinet
Bradley Kemp '02, double bass
Jeffrey Balter '13 M.M., percussion

In tonight's performance, musicians and puppeteers from the original New York cast will join with NEC singers and improvisers to tell the Triangle story through text, puppetry, and an improvisatory soundscape. Puppeteers Jamie Moore and Finn Campman have worked with Basil Twist and Company of Strangers; guest vocalists Amy Carrigan and Michael Douglas Jones have worked with Meredith Monk and Anthony Braxton.

While vocalists perform Keppel’s haunting text, puppets act as silent, spiritual incarnations of the story’s dream-like metaphors, woven together by Kemp’s richly layered improvisatory soundscape. In the libretto, the forewoman Joan tells three younger seamstresses her story of the Triangle workers’ strike and of her survival of the subsequent fire. At the same time, the former owner of the Triangle factory, Blanck, presents his own version of the strike and fire, teetering among feelings of anger, grief, guilt, and eager complacency. Together they dramatize the psychological difficulty of maintaining ideals, or even of expressing one's basic humanity, within a framework of social injustice.

In this sense, Triangle doesn’t simply dramatize the fire as a lamentable tragedy, a critical event in U.S. labor history now safely contained by the passage of time and workplace safety laws. Rather, the play also seeks to remind us of where we see (or don’t see) similar events today. Somewhere these Triangle women are still trapped—just as hundreds of garment workers have been in recent fires and building collapses in Bangladesh. The play asks how do we understand a system that continues to allow and even encourage such practices? To what extent are factory owners and corporations that profit from them also trapped by the system?

Find out more about this play.

Date: January 16, 2014 - 7:00:PM
Price: Free
Location: Brown Hall

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Triangle has been supported by two grants from the Jim Henson Foundation, the Vermont Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and the NEC Professional Development Fund.

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