It’s been the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary and history books. It’s studied in law and labor relations classes. Now the 1985 meatpackers’ union strike that convulsed the company town of Austin, Minn., will be revisited in a new play.
“Spamtown, USA” will premiere at the Children’s Theatre Company in February 2020. The drama aims to offer perspectives that were missing from coverage of the 10-month strike — those of young people whose childhoods were deeply affected by the labor battle.
“I was really concerned about talking with four categories of adults who were children during the P-9 strike,” said playwright Philip Dawkins, who conducted interviews in Austin and elsewhere to research “Spamtown.”
Dawkins took care to capture voices of “kids who had parents who were strikers, kids whose parents crossed the picket lines, kids from Hormel corporate and kids who did not have family members working for Hormel but who were impacted growing up in the town.
“What is it like to be a young person in a world where adults have delineated everything into black or white, right and wrong?” Dawkins said. “That is the question for this play about the ’80s. But it feels to me like life in the U.S. in 2019.”
“Spamtown” will be staged Feb. 16-April 5, 2020, by Will Davis, Chicago’s high-profile and proudly trans director. It is one of two premieres in CTC’s just-announced 2019-20 season.
The other is British director Greg Banks’ two-person adaptation of “Snow White,” to be headlined by virtuosic Twin Cities actors Joy Dolo and Dean Holt. The theater describes this new “Snow White” (Sept. 29-Dec. 8) as a witty, knock-knock version that questions “the storybook notion of love with a delightful twist.”
Other works in the 2019-20 lineup reach well beyond Minnesota, with theater springing from Ethiopia, Jamaica and Canada.
The season kicks off with “Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams,” a music-infused, acrobatic story about two kids who realize their goal of joining the circus with the help of the moon (Sept. 17-Oct. 20). Children’s Theatre artistic director Peter Brosius saw the show last summer at Britain’s Edinburgh Festival.
“I loved their bravura, risk-taking brilliance,” he said. “And they deliver with so much sweetness of tone and a generosity of spirit. You feel like you’ve been invited to join this wonderful family.”
“Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds,” a kiddie reggae musical based on the children’s book by Cedella Marley, daughter of the reggae icon, will be directed by Nataki Garrett, who has staged several works at Mixed Blood Theatre. The story follows a shy kid named Ziggy who overcomes his fear of storms and duppies — Jamaican ghosts — as his confidence grows (Jan. 19-March 1, 2020).
CTC also will present “The Rainbow Fish,” a visually arresting work with black-light puppetry by Nova Scotia’s Mermaid Theatre (March 10-April 5, 2020).
The season also boasts revivals of “Cinderella” and “Annie.” At the holidays, Brosius will direct CTC’s pantomime revival of “Cinderella,” with new company member Rajané Katurah Brown in the title role (Nov. 3-Jan. 5).
And next spring director Peter Rothstein will revisit “Annie,” whose star the theater hopes to find in an open casting call at the Mall of America (April 19-June 21, 2020).
Current season subscribers can renew immediately by calling 612-874-0400 or visiting childrenstheatre.org. New season subscriptions are available March 1. Single tickets go on sale in July.