CLARKS SUMMIT — Heroic, yet human. Vulnerable, but a leader. Rough around the edges, yet soft-spoken.
Late 19th and early 20th century labor leader John Mitchell’s life is full of contradiction and conflict — both necessary elements to a good story, according to a local playwright who began researching the man more than two years ago.
Robert Hughes, of Clarks Summit, will debut his new piece, “John Mitchell: An American Legend,” at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum, 22 Bald Mountain Road, Scranton.
“He was born into the mining industry,” Hughes said of his subject. “His father was a miner. He started off as a miner. He understood their problems. He was the perfect leader. But what really made him was that he was a gentleman, soft spoken, he wasn’t the big barrel-chested kind of guy. He was just a low-key kind of guy with a good heart. And most importantly, he taught everybody that to be a good person, you’ve got to be a good citizen.”
Despite his deprived background, Mitchell rose to the top and is celebrated today as a major player in the labor movement. He is best known as president of the United Mine Workers of America from 1898 to 1908. His statue stands on the grounds of the Lackawanna County Courthouse in Scranton, site of the 1902 Coal Strike.
The play begins with Mitchell’s difficult childhood, continuing into his life work.
“It’s a very human portrait of a labor leader,” Hughes said of the piece. “And I don’t whitewash him (Mitchell), I don’t go ahead and blow his image up full of hot air.”
Tickets for the 45-minute one-man show are $5 and available by calling the museum at 570-963-4804.
Hughes will also give a repeat performance of another of his one-man shows, “The Miner’s Tale,” at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1 at the Waverly Community House (Comm). Tickets are $10 and can be reserved by calling the Comm at 570-586-8191.