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The People Speak: Performances from Howard Zinn's Voices of a People's History of the United States

by Allison Trzop

Several weeks ago, a couple of folks from Beacon -- including Director Helene Atwan -- had the pleasure and the privilege of attending several readings and tapings for a miniseries being shot over at Emerson College’s Cutler Majestic Theatre here in Boston.

Hosted by Executive Producer Howard Zinn -- not only a wildly influential historian and one of the most inspirational activists of modern times, but also one of the most imminently likable people alive --"The People Speak" featured an all-star line-up performing excerpts primarily taken from Zinn’s book Voices of A People’s History of the United States. The four performances, broken into segments titled "Class," "Women," "Race," and "War," were the culmination of tremendous work by Zinn, Anthony Arnove, and Chris Moore of "Project Greenlight," as well as actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

While every last one of the actors who participated should be loudly applauded (yet again!), standout performances included John Legend pouring his heart and soul into Nina Simone’s "Mississippi Goddamn"; Marisa Tomei reading the words of Cindy Sheehan; David Strathairn standing in for a member of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which for those of us who loved Good Night, and Good Luck was hilarious; Josh Brolin doing more for Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun than any high school lit class ever could; and every last time Staceyann Chin walked onstage.

Did you ever expect to hear Viggo Mortensen sing Bob Dylan?

For those who couldn’t make it into the filled-to-capacity Cutler Majestic, you can read more about it over at Alternet,  watch some more clips on YouTube, and, with any luck, the producers will find a home for the miniseries.

Allison Trzop is an assistant editor at Beacon Press.