'Hammer' Time Reading of Pittsburgh Playwright's Work about Molly Rush Benefits Thomas Merton Center

By Eberson, Sharon | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), September 8, 2016 | Go to article overview

'Hammer' Time Reading of Pittsburgh Playwright's Work about Molly Rush Benefits Thomas Merton Center


Eberson, Sharon, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


The following CORRECTION/CLARIFICATION appeared on September 9, 2016.Tickets to the "Molly's Hammer" reading Friday at Chatham University's Eddy Theater are $100 and $50. Prices were incorrect in a story Thursday.

A mother of six left her Dormont home 36 years ago and crossed the state to do battle with nuclear warheads.

To commemorate that day, the city issued a proclamation on Wednesday declaring Sept. 7 Molly Rush Day in Pittsburgh, kicking off a celebration of the "local peace legend" that culminates in a professional reading of Tammy Ryan's play "Molly's Hammer" on Sept. 9, the anniversary of the hammer-swing protest.

On that day in 1980, Molly Rush and her fellow protesters - linked by headlines as the Plowshares 8 - made their way to King of Prussia's General Electric plant to draw attention to America's growing nuclear arsenal, and there she took up a hammer and pounded the nose cones of two weapons of mass destruction.

They were tried and jailed for that defiant act on Sept. 9, 1980, then tried again a decade later and sentenced to time served. Ms. Rush, a longtime social activist who would found the Thomas Merton Center, was thrust into an international debate, one that Edward Snowden knows well, about civil disobedience vs. criminal intent.

Playwright Ryan takes us back to that time in Ms. Rush's life with the new "Molly's Hammer," which had a well-received March production at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and will have a reading at 7:30 p.m. Friday, as a fundraiser for the Merton Center in Garfield.

Ms. Rush, 80, and Liane Norman, author of "Hammer of Justice: Molly Rush and the Plowshares 8," will be in attendance.

The three-person play begins in the days before the event and takes us through the first trial, seen through the eyes of Molly and her husband, Bill, and the late Rev. Daniel Berrigan, who with his brother Philip was among the eight protesters.

When Ms. Ryan began the project, based on Ms. Norman's book and shaped by meetings with the Rushes, her thoughts were about what compels a seemingly ordinary person to take extraordinary measures and the sacrifices and consequences of taking action.

"And then, of course, she's a real person who is going to be in the audience," said Ms. Ryan, the award-winning Pittsburgh playwright of "Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods" and "The Music Lesson."

Ms. Rush was seated beside the writer during opening night of the play in St. Louis.

"She described it as a surreal experience," Ms. Ryan said. "When the actor playing Bill came out, she said, 'That's Bill.' So she really enjoyed it, and the actors couldn't wait to meet her, so it was this moment of reverence."

For the reading at Chatham University, Ms. Rush will be portrayed by Kimberly Parker Green, Bill by Jason McCune and Daniel Berrigan, as well as other characters, by Don DiGuilio.

"I'm really interested to hear [Mr. DiGuilio] because he's younger than the other actor, and I think that character needs to be younger because he flexes into different ages," Ms. …

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