“The Gate on 16th Avenue (A 1905 Murder and the Trial of the Century),” a new play about the trial here in 1907 that arose from the murder of ex-Governor Frank Steunenberg, will be presented March 15, 16 and 17 at Boise Little Theater. The play, written and directed by Mike Silva, is a joint production of The Idaho Legal History Society and Spontaneous Productions Inc.
The event is part of a yearlong observance of the famous “Trial of the Century” planned by the Society. On trial for murder was William D. “Big Bill” Haywood, an officer of the Western Federation of Miners. He was implicated by Harry Orchard, who made and set the dynamite bomb that killed Steunenberg as he opened the gate to his home on 16th Avenue in Caldwell on the night of December 30, 1905.
The trial attracted national and international attention as part of the violent struggle going on in the United States between capital and labor and, in this case, between the Mineowners’ Association and the Western Federation of Miners. At least 100 national and international journalists covered the trial for publications like the New York Times, The Boston Globe, McClure’s Magazine, the New York World, the Chicago Tribune and the New York Herald.
Clarence Darrow headed the defense team for Haywood and James H. Hawley and William E. Borah headed the prosecution. Hawley was a former mayor of Boise and was Governor of Idaho from 1911 to 1913. Borah represented Idaho in the U.S. Senate for many years.
Heading the cast will be Gary Anderson as Clarence Darrow, a professional actor who has performed his highly acclaimed one-man presentation “Clarence Darrow: The Search for Justice” twice in Boise during the past year. He heads the American Legends Theatre Works in Redding, California. Anderson tours nationally with his Darrow one-man show and another in which he portrays Williams Jennings Bryan. Anderson appears in the play thanks to a grant from the Boise City Commission on the Arts.
The cast includes also Pierce Murphy as William E. Borah; John Elliott as James McParland, the infamous Pinkerton detective; Tony Park as James H. Hawley; Tom Poremba as Harry Orchard; Keith Couch as Judge Fremont Wood; Christian Shiverick as Haywood; Jon Duane as the bailiff; Marc Marshall as Defense Attorney Edmund F. Richardson; Jeff Thomson as the commentator; Tom McCabe as the legal consultant, and Buffie Main, David Rose, Kevin Butler and Mike Silva in cameo appearances of Theodore Roosevelt, Haywood’s daughter, Abraham Cahan, famous editor of the Jewish Daily Forward newspaper, and Eugene V. Debs, head of the American Socialist party.
Tickets for the play are available on www.ticketleap.com and at the Boise Little Theater box office, 208.342.5104. Seating is reserved and tickets are $17.00 and $12.00 for seniors and students. Curtain for each performance will be at 7:30 and wine, beer and water will be available in the theater lobby beginning at 6:30 on the night of each performance.
The Society commissioned Silva, who is president and general manager of Spontaneous Productions Inc., to write a play based on the famous trial. “Reading Tony Lukas’ 800-page ‘Big Trouble’ provided more information than anyone might want on the trial and the times,” Silva said. It was one of half dozen books he read in researching the trial, including the well-known “Debaters and Dynamiters.” He then pored over thousands of pages of the original trial transcript before committing words to paper.