Never mind the New Hampshire primary, the real agents of change were at the Cutler Majestic Theatre yesterday. In words and script, Mother Jones, Eugene Debs, Martin Luther King Jr., Marian Wright Edelman, and Langston Hughes were all on stage as the taping began of "The People Speak," the miniseries based on BU professor Howard Zinn's book "A People's History of the United States."
Their words were given voice by a collection of left-leaning Hollywood heavies, including Danny Glover, Viggo Mortensen, David Strathairn, Josh Brolin, and Marisa Tomei. A project that's been discussed for more than a decade, "The People Speak" is being produced by Chris Moore, former Project Greenlight partner of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.
The celebs recorded two shows yesterday. Two more will be taped in front of a live audience today.
Widely admired by liberals since its publication in 1980, "A People's History" is a collection of the letters, speeches, and last words of agitators, activists, soldiers, and slaves. "These are the people who have given us whatever liberty and freedom we have in this country," Zinn explained by way of introduction. "Patriotism doesn't mean obedience to government."
The actors, some of whom signed on to the project years ago, were dressed casually and read from scripts. If they muffed a line - as Mortensen did during a reading about Shay's Rebellion - they just kept going. The most affecting performances were delivered by Mortensen, Michael Ealy, and Glover, who read the Hughes poem "Ballad of Roosevelt."
Boston native Dan Fireman, whose Artfire Films is among those bankrolling the project, told us all the celebs, including Benjamin Bratt and musician John Legend, both slated to perform today, are working for scale. Many rearranged their schedules to take part.
Other performers pitching in include Jasmine Guy, Reg E. Cathey, Harris Yulin, Mike O'Malley, Martin Espada, and Kathleen Chalfant.
Spied in the audience yesterday afternoon was Ike Williams, Zinn's longtime lawyer and literary agent, and Zinn's wife, Roslyn.
I was a Winnipeg Goldeye for two grand a year
Riding high-pollutin' buses to Shaumburg, Illinois
I weighed one sixty three, batted two eighty five
Supporting three kids in Topeka and two ex-wives
Workin' winter midnights, dreamed of getting' jacked
Tryin to hit the ball to the warning track
Bought me a Bowflex, drank thousands of shakes
Got a tryout with a scout who said, "it's only talent you lack."
Talent I lacked
Canseco told Mitchell while on the Exxon Valdese
'I can make you millions, help you throw 93
'Bob Heise'd been Jim Rice if he knew what I know'
And there's never been a low as low as Canseco.
Ten bombs in training camp got me triple-A
Eight more in April brought me big league quail
One custom Hummer, three dozen suits
With my agent - now a trainer - along for the hoot
Along for the hoot
Then one day I got a call from Mitchell's henchmen
Seems my name showed up where it shouldn't have been
Now I'm back at the
Playing beer league softball in lieu of ten years time
In lieu of ten years time
Names can be reached at names@globe .com or at 617-929-8253.