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Theatre West Presents FROM WHARF RATS TO LORDS OF THE DOCKS By Ian Ruskin

Theatre West Presents FROM WHARF RATS TO LORDS OF THE DOCKS By Ian Ruskin Theatre West - Actor-playwright Ian Ruskin portrays the legendary union organizer Harry Bridges, capturing his passion, struggles and wicked sense of humor in the one-man play, "From Wharf Rats to Lords of the Docks".

This vivid dramatization brings to life the San Francisco labor leader who organized the poorly paid and greatly abused dock workers - self-proclaimed "wharf rats" -- on San Francisco's piers. Bridges' ultimately successful effort to organize these workers was fraught with violence and personal consequences; he was frequently harassed, beaten and jailed. He had three wives, two bitter divorces and his time of too much Jack Daniels. Today he stands as a hero for organized labor throughout the world.

Written and performed by Ian Ruskin, with narration by Elliott Gould and Ed Asner, the play features Harry Bridges' own words, from his rallying speeches of the 1930s to his electrifying testimony at his own trials, plus eye-witness accounts in the words of his contemporaries.

"From Wharf Rats to Lords of the Docks" has been performed at union halls, colleges and universities, conferences, theaters and wherever men and women, students and workers gather to learn about American leaders such as Harry Bridges who dared take a stand for justice, dignity and improved working conditions for workers. The play had its world premiere at the University of Washington Summer Arts Festival in 2001.

Actor-playwright Ian Ruskin has performed From Wharf Rats to Lords of the Docks more than 200 times to approximately 50,000 people in high schools, universities, union conventions, museums, libraries, citizens' groups and theatres. He has performed across America and in Canada, Hawaii, England and Australia. The film version of a live performance, directed by Academy Award winner Haskell Wexler, aired for 4 years across America on PBS, making it available to 150 million Americans.

"Ruskin, a stellar storyteller, revivifies Bridges in both appearance and sentiment. Ruskin's script is wonderfully didactic and his presence is compelling. Not only do we see this master stage craftsman in a sterling performance, we also are informed of an important and rarely broached part of America's labor history...a must-see show". -Ben Miles,, Los Angeles

"From Wharf Rats to Lords of the Docks"will run for one night only, October 20 at 8 p.m. at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90068. There will be a talk back after the show. Tickets are $25 and may be purchased in advance at or by calling 323-851-7977.

Ian Ruskin trained as an actor in London at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and then worked for the next 15 years in England in repertory companies, London's West End, and in television and film. Highlights included working in the Laurence Olivier "King Lear" for Granada Television, playing Jack in "Jack the Ripper" at The Players Theatre, London and performing the one-man play "The Man Himself", written by Alan Drury, at the Duke's Playhouse, Lancaster, the Soho Poly in London and at Stages Theater in Hollywood, where it was Critics Choice in the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly and other magazines. Arriving in Los Angeles in 1985, Ian took on guest star roles, usually playing the intelligent bad guy, in shows such as "Murder She Wrote", "Scarecrow and Mrs. King" and "MacGyver". While this work paid the rent, it did not in any way fulfill his dream as a student at RADA - to be involved in work that would affect an audience. As a young actor he had performed in great classical plays and in the works of the most exciting new playwrights, in plays that could not only move audiences but also give them something to reflect on as they went home. This was not happening on the sound stage of "MacGyver"...then he discovered Harry Bridges.

Australian born Bridges was a labor leader and social campaigner whose impact on the fabric of American life during the 20th century was profound and far-reaching. His passion for Jack London novels brought him to San Francisco as a 19 year old, where he went from public enemy number one to elder statesman. From 1930 until the early 1970s he was a national and international figure. He knew Charlie Chaplin, Paul Robeson, Billie Holiday, Pete Seeger and Orson Welles and when Nelson Mandela visited America, Bridges was the first man he thanked for his stands against Apartheid. The ILWU has a long history of international solidarity and the issues for which he campaigned during those five decades - including the fight against prejudice and discrimination and endless government surveillance, the fight for rank-and-file democracy in unions, social security, a national health system, and an end to unjust wars - are still as relevant, important and challenging today as they were when Bridges began working on the San Francisco waterfront. Bridges personal life was as vivid and compelling as his public life. Two of his marriages ended in bitter divorces but a third, to a Japanese-American, changed the antimiscegenation laws of western states. He had his "Hollywood era", with star-studded fundraisers for his trials. He was always, in his own words, a "working stiff", but also a man who met with Presidents and toured Europe as a hero. A man with a Marxist philosophy who spent 21 years fighting to become an American citizen, Bridges' commitment to the achievement of workers' rights and social justice, continues to impact our lives in the 21st century.

The Harry Bridges Project is dedicated to introducing the public to the life and ideas of Harry Bridges and other social visionaries and their impact on our lives today. Bridges was an extraordinary labor leader whose life and work encompassed all of the important issues and events of his day, including immigration, depression-era policies, red-scares, McCarthyism, the cold-war and labor issues. His story provides a springboard into understanding these times and realizing their significance today, as we face parallel issues of globalization, the growing gap between rich and poor, increasing governmental surveillance and the war on terror. His life inspires people to come together, discover their own history and take charge of their own lives by engaging in dialogue and debate about these issues in order to move beyond the fears and limitations such issues can create.

For more information about the play, go to:

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