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Processional


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A: John Howard Lawson Pf: 1925, New York Pb: 1925 G: Pol. drama in 4 acts S: Outskirts of a West Virginia mining town, 1920s C: 17m, 3f, 8 extrasOn 4 July, striking jazz-playing coal miners pass Isaac Cohen's store, and his flighty daughter Sadie dances with a city slicker. When a Man in a Silk Hat attempts to deliver a patriotic speech, his hat is shot off. In jail, miner Dynamite Jim Flimmins plans his escape. A depressed ‘Negro’ is trying to break into jail, and helps Jim's escape by carrying him off in a coffin. Emerging from his hiding place, Jim kills one of the soldiers sent to break the strike. Shocked at what he has done, Jim hides in his mother's basement. When the Sheriff searches the house, Jim's mother admits that she has slept with soldiers for money. Jim is furious at his mother's promiscuity, and resolves to go out and kill again. As the miners fight the soldiers and the Ku Klux Klan, Jim escapes once more and rushes into Sadie's welcoming arms. Eventually he is captured and blinded by the Ku Klux Klan. Sadie has become pregnant with Jim's child, and is threatened by the Ku Klux Klan (two of whose members are her father and the Negro). Finally, the Man in the Silk Hat announces a pardon for the miners and an agreement to their demands (which will never be implemented). The Sheriff marries Sadie to Jim, and all join in a final procession.

A: John Howard Lawson Pf: 1925, New York Pb: 1925 G: Pol. drama in 4 acts S: Outskirts of a West Virginia mining town, 1920s C: 17m, 3f, 8 extras

Lawson was one of the first overtly political playwrights in America, and in 1947 was imprisoned by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Processional was his best-known play, an Expressionist mix of disjointed scenes, jazz music, and some staccato and chanted dialogue, joined together by the improbable story of the anti-hero Dynamite Jim. The stereotyped characters of the Jew and the ‘Negro’ date the play and do little to further its political message.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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