I have been having great fun rehearsing my role(s) in Untitled Theater Company #61’s latest production, an adaptation of Jack London’s forgotten 1908 dystopian/utopian novel The Iron Heel. The book has many resonances with our current day, set in a (then) sci fi future where leaders in a socialist movement struggle against the brutal schemers of the Oligarchy (I get to play the top Oligarch, which is great villainous fun).
London shows his familiarity with Marx and Engels by having the Oligarchs win in the short term, with the socialists finally triumphing centuries later. The Soviet Russians and most of the early 20th century radicals were conveniently “flexible” in their interpretation of Marx and the “when” and the “who” and the “how” of how their revolution was supposed to go down. It was supposed to happen in an already rich, industrialized nation in the west (as opposed to a mostly peasant society like Russia), with victory projected much farther in the future. So, in London’s scenario, we have it happening in places like America and Germany. The show has many resonances with our contemporary political debate that are downright amusing.
London was not only well-read in the socialist literature of his time but also in Darwin and Herbert Spencer, which has always made me an avid reader of his works. I’ll be blogging pretty heavily over the next few weeks about related stuff, mostly 19th and early 20th century radicalism, political philosophy, and my own political evolution at the present moment.
This is the best possible way to expose yourself to The Iron Heel by the way. Edward Einhorn’s adaptation is actually a much better experience than reading the original novel (I was going to rate the book 3 stars on Goodreads…but no one had previously rated it there and I didn’t feel like starting a new page for it.) In addition to focusing on the action (there’s a lot of it), Edward’s theatricalized it with actual period folk songs, which also puts me in a happy place — look for some more from me on that front as well in the vein of my previous folk musicals House of Trash and The Ballad of Jasper Jaxon — I’m gettin’ inspired. In short, Einhorn’s little traveling show is the right place for me to be in the present moment…a very suitable mental space as we plunge into this historic, tumultuous presidential election.