“At once entertaining and educational… brings to life an icon of labor history still relevant today.”Cynthia Phinney – President, Maine AFL-CIO
“Vivian Nesbitt truly becomes Mother Jones… great theater, great history…”John Beck – Labor Relations, Michigan State
“Like a good song, the play goes beyond facts and timelines to take us inside the human heart.”Sarah Craig – Caffe Lena, Folk Music Venue
Through story and song, Vivian Nesbitt (Breaking Bad, The Night Shift, Longmire, Law & Order SVU) portrays Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, with musical accompaniment by John Dillon, in Si Kahn‘s one-woman musical about the infamous labor organizer famed for her tireless efforts on behalf of the rights of the working class. (Mother Jones short bio here)
Leading the charge for better working conditions and fair pay for coal miners, mill workers and child laborers, Mother Jones was dubbed “The Most Dangerous Woman in America” by a West Virginia judge because, “At the crook of her little finger, she could get 8,000 men to walk out on strike.” Feared, revered and lauded in song and legend, Mother Jones was indeed “the grandmother of all agitators.”
At a time when issues that unions stand for, like safe working conditions, fair pay and equal rights are under attack, the play stands as a reminder that the fight is far from over.
The musical opens as Mother Jones arrives in Heaven to discover that it’s almost identical to her favorite Irish Pub just outside of Washington, DC. In the course of the 90-minute performance, Mother Jones looks back over her life, balancing the scales as she sifts through her storied past, weaving moments of profound insight with hilarious tales of a hellion in her prime. On the one side, her methods and practices, on the other, her reputation and results. Director Jo Johnson skillfully sets the pace for the compelling book and twelve original songs by author, activist, songwriter Si Kahn.
Now Booking Theaters, Colleges, Labor Conferences & Music Venues for 2022 & 2023
“…stunning in both its artistry and content!”Dorothy Alexander – Village Press
“…perfectly captured the story of Mother Jones.”Fernanda Perrone, PhD – Rutgers University
“…timely, educational and necessary.”Paul F. Cole – American Labor Studies Center
You’ve seen her on The Night Shift, Breaking Bad, Manhattan, In Plain Sight, The Messengers, Longmire, and Law & Order SVU. Vivian’s first professional acting job was understudying on Broadway at Roundabout Theater. She has gone on to develop a considerable body of work including Off-Broadway’s United Solo Festival, Theatre Row, NYC where her original solo play The Bark & The Tree was awarded Best Documentary Play and Best Lighting Design, as well as regional theater and summer Shakespeare. Her short film Leverage was an official selection of Taos Shortz Film Festival and NMWIF Film Fiesta garnering her an award for Best Performance.
Vivian was invited to perform her original solo play The Bark & The Tree at the prestigious Los Angeles Women’s Theater Festival in 2016. She holds an MFA in Acting and has continued her studies with luminaries such as Anna Deavere Smith and Alan Arkin. Vivian is also host and co-producer (with her husband John) of Art of the Song, heard on public radio nationwide.
Music Director, Guitarist
During his 25-year career as a guitar maker, John has built more than 80 custom instruments. His instruments are in the collections of Steve Earle, Tish Hinojosa, Trisha Yearwood, Ray Kennedy, and The Mavericks.
In 2003, John and Viv launched Art of the Song, a one-hour, weekly public radio program now heard on over 100 stations across North America. The two have interviewed some of the biggest names in the industry like Roger Daltry (The Who), Smokey Robinson, Judy Collins, Donald Fagen (Steely Dan), Joan Osborn, and Jorma Kaukonen (Hot Tuna, Jefferson Airplane), to name a few. The interviews focus on the universal truths common to all creative expression. John sums up their learning in his book, The 20-20 Creativity Solution.
Now with their home-base in Melrose, NY, John and Vivian spend part of the year in their 32-foot Winnebago Cambria – The MoJo Motorhome – and are pleased to share Mother Jones in Heaven with audiences across North America.
Si Kahn is a folk, bluegrass and roots music legend, once described as “a rumor in his own time.” At 75 years old, he is at the peak of his powers as performer, songwriter and recording artist. His songs have been recorded and performed by hundreds of artists in North America and Europe.
For 52 years, he’s worked professionally as a civil rights, labor and community organizer. Si has sometimes described his music as “a hobby that got out of hand,” which indeed it has.
Si’s body of published work includes 16 CDs of his original songs, including six releases on the Dutch record label Strictly Country Records, plus albums on Rounder, Flying Fish, and the Swiss label Doubletime Music; a CD of original songs for children, Good Times and Bedtimes; a collection of traditional labor and civil rights songs recorded with Pete Seeger and Jane Sapp; and the songs and/or scripts for seven musicals.
Director, Production Stage Manager
An essential member of the team, Jo’s regional stage management credits can be found in the archives of Mill Mountain Playhouse, Trinity Repertory theater and Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Jo also acts as Production Stage Manager for the touring production of Mother Jones In Heaven – a musical by Si Kahn, and The Bark & The Tree by Vivian Nesbitt.
Jo completed her MFA from the Professional Theater Training program at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Her acting credits are growing to include several productions in the Philadelphia area. She is an activist, writer and a photographer and studies acting at The Barrow Group in New York.
Relevant for Labor History, Irish/American History & Women’s Studies. Book Now!
“One of the issues we face today in the labor movement is that our history is often forgotten… or perhaps never learned by our younger members. Understanding our past struggles and triumphs can be an inspiration to persevere in the fight for workers’ rights and human dignity. The musical Mother Jones in Heaven brings to life an important part of labor history. This play is timely, educational and necessary.”
– Paul F. Cole, Executive Director, American Labor Studies Center; Secretary/Treasurer Emeritus, New York AFL-CIO; Former VP, American Federation of Teachers
We’d love to bring Mother Jones in Heaven to your town. We’ve performed the show in all types of venues across the country from conference rooms to coffeehouses, black-box theaters to 600-seat concert halls. Almost always honored with a standing ovation, this one-woman musical is guaranteed to inspire audiences.
The entertaining, yet educational production is perfect for after-dinner entertainment for conferences and seminars. For schools and universities the play keeps students engaged while raising awareness of an icon of American history.
We are teaching artists. Workshops available: Page to Stage, Stand and Deliver, Acting Skills for Public Speakers, and Cultivating Creativity.
Mother Jones curriculums for middle and high school are available through the American Labor Studies Center.
We provide posters, press releases and are available for media interviews. Please contact us for more information!
– Vivian and John
“Vivian Nesbitt truly becomes Mother Jones in the Si Kahn musical, ‘Mother Jones in Heaven.’ Ms. Nesbitt brings a fiery determination and keen sensitivity to the character of Mother Jones which ensures that her portrayal is not simply two-dimensional, but instead breathes deeply as the living embodiment of ‘the Most Dangerous Woman in America.’ This play is great entertainment, great theatre, great history, great education… ‘Mother Jones in Heaven’ deserves to be seen by all generations of playgoers who will be inspired by her life and her example.”
– John P. Beck, Co-director, Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives and Associate Professor, School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, Michigan State University