The program will feature guest appearances by other Marx Brothers experts, authors, and personalities.

By: Sep. 17, 2021
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Freedonia Marxonia, the annual Marx Brothers festival held on the SUNY Fredonia campus, will once again be held virtually this year. The featured event, live streaming on Friday, October 1, is There's Nothing Like Liberty: The Marx Brothers and America, an "illustrated lecture" by Noah Diamond. Described as a hybrid of lecture, performance, and documentary, There's Nothing Like Liberty is a sequel to last year's program, Home Again: The Marx Brothers and New York City.

While Home Again presented the Marx Brothers through the lens of their hometown, There's Nothing Like Liberty looks at their experiences in the rest of the country. As vaudevillians, they appeared in almost every state in the union. In between their New York childhood and the triumphant homecoming of their Broadway years, they lived in Chicago; and southern California was their home from the early 1930s onward. Along with the Marxes' own history, There's Nothing Like Liberty will examine American history from a Marxian angle, and explore how their work intersects with American history and ideas.

In addition to Mr. Diamond's commentary and visuals, the program will feature guest appearances by other Marx Brothers experts, authors, and personalities. Seth Shelden, who played Harpo to Mr. Diamond's Groucho in the 2016 revival of I'll Say She Is, appears in "a two-part Marxian adventure" whose details are being kept under wraps until the October 1 premiere.

Other highlights include a history of the Marxes' years in Chicago, co-produced by researcher Patrick McCaughey (of the website From the Marxives), a tour of the Marx Brothers' Los Angeles with screenwriter Scott Alexander (Ed Wood, Man on the Moon, Dolemite is My Name), a discussion of Margaret Dumont with author Reginald H. Pitts (coauthor, with Jane Margaret Laight, of the forthcoming Majesty of Missed Chaos: The Life and Times of Margaret Dumont), and a look at Marx Brothers memorabilia with collector Ira Dolnick; as well as new commentary from Joe Adamson (author of Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Sometimes Zeppo), Trav S.D. (co-producer of the I'll Say She Is revival, and author of No Applause - Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous), Scott Sandage (author of Born Losers: A History of American Failure), and classic film scholar and educator Hannah Mira, who was featured on a recent edition of The Marx Brothers Council Podcast.

The Marx Brothers Council, which has played a significant role in the development of the project, is the world's largest ongoing virtual gathering of Marx Brothers fans and scholars. Founded by Matthew Coniam (author of The Annotated Marx Brothers and That's Me, Groucho!), the Council has been a highly active Facebook group since 2013. Its companion podcast, hosted by Bob Gassel, Mr. Coniam, and Mr. Diamond, premiered in 2018.

In assembling the story of the Marx Brothers' experiences outside of New York City, Mr. Diamond asked members of the Marx Brothers Council group to submit photos and videos of extant Marx venues in their hometowns. The result, a two-part sequence revealing dozens of surviving, abandoned, or repurposed theatres, shows the tremendous reach of vaudeville during the first decades of the twentieth century. Mr. Diamond notes that the work of Robert S. Bader, in the landmark book Four of the Three Musketeers: The Marx Brothers On Stage, has enabled Marx Brothers fans everywhere to easily track the Brothers' path through the early years.

Cindy Yochym, reference librarian at SUNY Fredonia's Daniel A. Reed Library, is responsible for organizing and programming the annual Freedonia Marxonia festival. When it became clear that an in-person festival would not be possible in 2020, Ms. Yochym asked Mr. Diamond to devise a streaming alternative. The resulting presentation, Home Again, was a success, garnering over 16,000 views on YouTube; it was followed by a live Q&A session in which Mr. Diamond spent two hours answering viewers' questions, submitted through YouTube's live chat. The idea for There's Nothing Like Liberty was born during that Q&A. "Noah's skill and creativity have given us the ability to maintain the theme with a program that promises to be entertaining, informative, charming, and able to be enjoyed by people all over the world," says Ms. Yochym.

The program will stream live on October 1, 2021 at 7:00 pm ET, free of charge, on YouTube. The stream can be accessed at