Marx in Soho, Zinn at Brandeis

March 11, 2005

Marx in Soho, a one-man show written by prominent historian and political scientist Howard Zinn, was performed on campus Thursday, Mar. 3. In the role of Marx was actor/sociology professor Jerry Levy, who sported 19th-century dress, an inscrutable German-British accent, and a full beard for the occasion. Zinn himself was in attendance, noted by Brandeis professor Gordon Fellman (SOC) in a short introduction he gave to a near-capacity crowd at the Pollack Auditorium.

Marx in Soho turns on the intriguing conceit that Karl Marx has been given an hour and a half to return to earth to defend himself, which he does via a loosely organized lecture and performance. Marx spends much of the time with denunciations of capitalism, and his fury over the corruption of his ideas.

At one point he burst out: Everyone the media, the politicians, the education system they all say capitalism has triumphed. But triumphed over whom?

Spread among the political issues there are plenty of stories about Marxs personal life mixed in, including stories about a myriad of health problems (especially the recurring boils on his posterior which made sitting agony for him) and about his family.

Probably the plays most tender scenes are anecdotes about his youngest daughter Eleanor. Marx fondly recalls how she broke the law which prohibited working on Sunday by holding a concert for 2,000 people. At this concert musicians played Handel, Mozart and Beethoven.

The police could do nothing and Marx notes [I]f youre going to break the law, do it with 2,000 people. And Mozart.

The show ended with Marxs time on earth running out and this final thought: I still have hope for the future. We all just need to get off our asses and DO something, He said. Heres an idea: once in a while, pretend as if you have boils. Refuse to sit down or stand still.

After Levy took his bows, he and Zinn stayed for a brief question and answer session about the future of the free market and socialism. Zinn referred to capitalism as a sick system and responded to a query regarding the failure of such Communist states as China and the Soviet Union by saying Certainly human nature has tremendous capacity for terrible things. But there is greater capacity for kindness, compassion, affection and love. people have to be coerced, bribed, threatened, and incited to have any part in [war].Howard Zinn is the author of numerous books and histories, including A Peoples History of the United States. He is well known for his alternative history writings and radical left-wing politics. A documentary about his life, You Cant be Neutral on a Moving Train, was released on DVD in 2004 but is not widely available.

The show was sponsored by the Sociology Department and directed by Michael Kennedy.

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