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                                                               YIDDISH THEATRE 101 > THE YIDDISH PLAYS > THE PLAY IN HISTORY  >  JIM COOPERKOP

 

"Jim Cooperkop"

by Shin Godiner

A play in three acts, six scenes and a prologue

At the Artef Theatre
its own theatre, at 104 W. 39th Street,
between Broadway and 6th Avenue.

Beginning on January 29, 1925.

Produced by BENNO SCHNEIDER            Dances by B. ZEMACH

Settings by BORIS ARONSON          Music by I. AHN ADOHMYAN


 

THE PLAYERS

 

Woodrow Rockford (American Magnate)

A. Hirshbein
M. Friedman

Langston (another American Magnate)

S. Nagoshiner

Edgar Howard (Inventor of Jim)

I. Welichansky

Jim Cooperkop (Mechanical Man)

A. Kopilofsky

Professor Li (Psychiatrist for Rockford)

Leib Freilich

Tom (A Negro, oldest servant of Rockford)

A. Holtz

Jessie (A Mulatto, Tom's daughter)

Liuba Rymer
Chana Shpiner

Fornitlive (Rockford's Private Secretary)

Sara Silberberg

Tornes (Labor Leader)

S. Levin

Robert (Worker, Chairman of the "AKS" Society)

Max Schneiderman

Graneck (Speaker)

Joseph Shrogin

Thump (Negro Worker)

G. Rosler

Bessie (Editor of a Communist daily)

Dene Drute; Fela Biro

Smith (Editor of a Communist daily)

M. Friedman; A. Hirshbein

Li Ho (A Chinese laborer)

Michel Goldstein

Jim Cotter (Negro laborer)

S. Strauss

Jack (Worker -- Stool Pigeon)

G. Rutman

A Man with Outstretched Arm (in the Prologue)

J. Shrogin

A Woman

Tina Todrina
Eda Shatzky

Rockford's Agent

Hersh Gendel

The Spectre

Michel Goldstein

First Servant (in Rockford's Study)

Bessie Jacobs

Second Servant (in Rockford's Study)

Munie Dubitsky


                            Advertising Manager -- (In Prologue)

                            Guests in the Salon -- Workers

                             Sh. Anisfeld -- Fela Biro -- Bender -- Gordon -- Gendel --
                             Dubitsky -- Lerman -- Kufman -- Rosen -- Shpiner -- Strauss.

 

Act I. -- 1. Prologue. A Street in an American City.
                2. Rockford's Study.

Act II. -- 1. Editorial office of a Communist Daily.
                  2. A salon in Rockford's.
                  3. Rockford's Foundry.

Act III. -- 1. Rockford's Study.
                    2. The same Place as in the Prologue.

Technician -- I. Pelman            Stage Manager -- S. Nagoshiner           G. Rutman -- Artef Manager.


 

The Story of "Jim Cooperkop"

 

Jim Cooperkop (Copperhead) is the name of the mechanical man invented by Edgar Howard.

In the Prologue, Howard is seen in a lofty attitude declaiming the glories of America, the marvels of modern technique of which his own creation, Jim Cooperkop, is the crowning achievement. This is followed by an outcry of a jobless worker begging for a coin to still his pangs of hunger. His plight is commented upon by a series of masks each representing a phase of capitalist business, the quack, the pleasure-business, the insurance broker, the funeral director, etc., each praising his wars in florid language. A woman appears calling for jazz to drown out her sorrow brought about by the loss of a child who was killed in an accident. The jobless worker dies with a last piercing cry. The masks pronounce him a sinner and a useless man, one of the poor. The Spectre sounds a note of warning, that there are millions of such "sinners," millions of unemployed, who will soon be heard from.

Act I. Private office of the super-capitalist and king of industry Woodrow Rockford. The industrial dictator is worried by the spread of the revolutionary movment. He challenges the doctrine of Karl Marx and undertakes to establish universal contentment. He bids Tom, his Negro butler, to enact the Spectre stalking the European continent, the servant sullenly obeying. Professor Li, psychiatrist, is alarmed by the condition of his distinguished patient, but Rockford is too busy planning the destruction of the Spectre to be worried about his health. The inventor of Jim Cooperkop calls upon the industrial ruler and the two discuss the new invention. Rockford wants Jim to serve as a model worker and objects to the brain and heart which the inventor put into Jim, saying that these are "nests of harmful emotions." Howard is finally prevailed upon to remove the heart and the brain of the automaton. Mr. Langston, another capitalist leader, visits Rockford and refuses to merge his concern with Rockford's. Mr. Langston has a monopoly of the "pleasure" industry. Jessie, mistress of Rockford, is unhappy because she is a mulatto and cannot attain the standing of a white woman. She is the daughter of Tom, and has only contempt for her ... father. William Tornes, Communist leader, arrives at Rockford's invitation and is asked to cooperate in the scheme of establishing world contentment.  ...curing the workers of the "mania" ... class struggle. Tornes remains noncommittal while listening attentively to Rockford's plans. The Communist leader is finally moved to comment upon Rockford's scheme, saying that in order to accomplish universal contentment, capitalism has to be destroyed first. Rockford replies that he is willing to sacrifice capitalism, if need be. Tornes realizes the contradictory position of the capitalist, but promises to cooperate with him as far as the destructive capitalism is concerned. Rockford worked himself into a fit and as collapses all in a heap. Tornes contemptuously bids the "master" good night.

Act II. Scene 1. Thump, active Negro worker, arrives a the editorial office of a Communist paper and discovered that the place has been raided by fascist hoodlums. She executes a dance of defiance. Tornes, Granek Schmidt, Betty and Robert come to discuss plans to strike in Langston's plants. Robert is against the strike, contrary  to the decision of a leading committee. He is taken to task by the others and ordered not to block the strike. Thump discovers a bomb planted by the fascists. She hurries to the roof to put the bomb in a water tank while Betty anxiously counts the seconds. Robert realizes his error and rushes to address a demonstration of the strikers.

Scene 2. Rockford's Reception Room. Jim Cooperkop, the mechanical man, demonstrated before a group of financial rulers and their wives. Jim is found to be capable of feeling, and Rockford orders Howard to remove the brain and heart of the robot at once.

Scene 3. Workers in a Rockford plant discuss the chances of Jim Cooperkop's taking their places. Li Ho, a Chinese worker, one of a half-million imported by Rockford, is greatly worried at the prospect of losing his job. He is militant and ready to rise against the masters. A fight breaks out between Li Ho and Jack, an American who sneers at Li. His calling him "yellow mouse." All workers take Li Ho's side, the latter protesting against Jack's joining the militant organization for fear he might turn traitor. Tornes arrives with final instructions about the strike. Jack and Cotter, a Negro worker, are opposed to the strike. In the turmoil, Jack pushes Li Ho into a mass of molten metal, blaming Cotter for the act and shouting: "Lynch the black devil." Li Ho, badly burned, accuses Jack Cotter, aroused, joins in the strike.

Act III. Scene 1. Rockford's Office. Jessie expresses her contempt for Howard, who has sold himself to Rockford for money. Rockford is greatly alarmed by the rising tide of revolt among his workers. Foreseeing his defeat, he plans to blow up his plants all over the world. A machine in his office is to set off the explosions. He asks Tom the help him with the machine. Tom refuses, recalling Rockford's treachery years ago in robbing him of his invention, then of his wife and later of his daughter. Before Rockford has a chance to set the machine in motion, Jim Cooperkop, released by Tom, crushes both Rockford and Jessie.

Finale. Langston, chief competitor of Rockford, celebrates the downfall of his rival. The celebration takes place in a public square. Jim Cooperkop is to be placed atop a building and laugh continuously as a symbol of America's gaiety and contentment. The celebration is interrupted by ominous voices announcing the revolt of the workers in Langston's plants and the refusal of the soldiers to fire upon the strikers. As the demonstration of the workers gathers force, Jim's laughter becomes more animated and, with his eyes suddenly lighted, Jim joins in the march of revolution.

The Idea of the Play

"Jim Cooperkop" is not a realistic play depicting the class struggle in the United States, but rather the dramatization of an idea and a forecast. The idea is interesting and the forecast is plausible. Woodrow Rockford is not the portrait of any one American industrial dictator. He is the embodiment of capitalist dictatorship in its final stage, in its stage of fascism. While the atmosphere and the characters of the play may not be "typically American," its mood of revolt and social conflict is universal, and the American background, even if only formal, gives greater resonance to the clashes and contradictions within capitalism on one hand and the struggle of class against class on the other. Jim, the mechanical man, is the last word in capitalist mechanization and efficiency; he is the pivotal point in Rockford's scheme of "curing" the workers of their "mania" of class struggle. But Jim, symbol of rationalization and efficiency, himself becomes a cause of discontent and revolt. In the last scene, at trhe approach of the revolution, Jim joins in the march of revolt -- to become an instrument of progress in the hands of the victorious proletariat.


 

 



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