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Pins and Needles

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Foundry Theater revival of a Depression-era musical opens this week. In its day, the show brought satirical relief to a polarized society. WNYC’s Sara Fishko tells the story.

 

 

(Scroll to the bottom to see photos from one of the original performances of Pins and Needles)

 

 

Pins and Needles was produced by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, and performed entirely by union workers, all amateurs, who diligently rehearsed after their day jobs ended.  It was presented at the old (now gone) Princess Theater on 39th Street, which doubled as their union hall. Later, the production moved to the Windsor Theater.

The show broke what was at that time a Broadway record: more than 1100 performances, between 1937 and 1941.  Dreamed up toward the end of the Great Depression,  the show took a famously light-hearted approach to class-consciousness, union politics and current issues of the day.  The young composer-lyricist Harold Rome (he went on to write “I Can Get For You Wholesale) made his Broadway Debut with Pins and Needles, crafting witty songs that display a love of language.

 

Select songs from Pins and Needles


Doing the Reactionary
All the best dictators do it / Millionaires keep steppin' to it /The Four Hundred love to sing it /Ford and Morgan swing it

 



Not Cricket to Picket
It's not cricket to picket not cricket / Oh, no it's just not coming for to picket / You haven't any right you know / You're acting in great haste / Just think of the predicament / In which your boss is placed

The above songs were recorded in-studio on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Pins and Needles. To see the recording, click here.

 

 

Pins and Needles at The Irondale Centre in Fort Greene, Brooklyn

An updated revival of Pins and Needles is running at The Irondale Centre in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Produced by The Foundry Theatre, it features performances by members of FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality).  The Show runs on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays through July 9th. For more information, visit The Foundry Theatre’s website.
(Photo by Ari Mintz)

 

 

 

WNYC Production Credits

Mix Engineer: Paul Schneider and Bill Bowen

Assistant Producer: Laura Mayer

WNYC Newsroom Editor: Karen Frillmann

 

Photographs from one of the earlier runs of Pins and Needles. To see more, vist this Flickr set from the Kheel Center at Cornell University.

Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
The finale of the first act of "Pins & Needles," at the Labor Stage in New York.
Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
Corsets and Brassiers Workers member Ruth Rubenstein performs "Chain Store Daisy" in the "Pins & Needles" Broadway production.
Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
A scene from the ILGWU's "Pins & Needles" musical revue.
Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
Ella Gerber sings "Not Cricket to Picket" in a performance of "Pins & Needles."
Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
A scene called "One Big Union for Two," from the ILGWU musical revue, "Pins and Needles," at the Labor Stage in New York.
Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
Scene from the ILGWU's "Pins & Needles" musical revue at the Labor Stage in New York
Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
Performers look on as Al Levy, a "Pins & Needles" performer, gets the autograph of Eleanor Roosevelt following the performance at the Labor Stage, November 1945.

Produced by:

Sara Fishko

Comments [1]

mimi stern-wolfe from 310 east 12th 2H 212 477 1594; dmpmimi@verizon.net

HI Sarah,

I see you have had interest in Pins and Needles. Great! I have interest in presenting
some of its catchy and wonderful music for HOWL FESTIVAL--maybe upcoming performance--- but cannot find the score/ Do you know where I can rent, buy or loan it? Please???mimi stern-wolfe

mimi stern-wolfe

Aug. 30 2011 05:41 PM

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