This webpage will give viewers an edited essay journey of the premiere performance of ‘Pushcart Tony’, presented at the Vittum Proscenium Theater in Chicago’s Noble Square on June 10, 11 and 12 of 2016.
ACT I: 'Some Stories Simply Should Be Told'
A young student from a working-class family, Lully Kurshvin, refuses to do his history assignment on former Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak. He meets Mr. Flaga, who listens patiently to his disposition about crooked legends that comprise such unsatisfying assignments. Dramatically vaulting into the past, Mr. Flaga teaches Lully quickly about the humble origins of the man called Tony Cermak and how he came of age upon the streets of Chicago. It is a story, that fully told, the boy will take to heart.
ACT I: A Young Man In Chicago
The young Tony Cermak is, like his Chicago peers, bred from a heritage of hard work. As a Bohemian, he joins scores of other ethnics in the daily battle for survival and improvement on the streets of the Southwest Side. In this work and this struggle, he thrives amidst the conflict and camaraderie of a true working-class city. He also witnesses the marvels of industry and innovation in the advancing Age and witnesses the malfeasance, the grand spoils, and the danger of an American boom-town.
ACT I: Get Out The Vote!
Entering local politics meant beginning at the bottom for Tony Cermak. But soon, due to his tireless efforts, the middle was in view and leadership was part of the question of his future. In endemically corrupt Illinois, the climb was steep, and fraught with men who scoffed at public service and the labor of others. Tony Cermak became their life-long enemy. Soon he reaped the benefits of his industry and grew quickly in power, a man who trusted few in Chicago politics but reaped the benefit of support of the city’s great immigrant working class.
ACT I: The Tide Of Temperance
Returning to Chicago after years as an Illinois General Assemblyman, new 12th Ward Alderman Tony Cermak ran straight into the battle of American Temperance. Fiercely opposed to such a notion such as National Prohibition, Cermak used all his political powers against it. However, the rural forces of the country overwhelmed even his reason and tenacity, and America came face-to-face with the ‘Nobel Experiment’ upon the U.S. Constitution, something many would regret immediately once Al Capone and his friends came to Chicago.
ACT II: 'Prohibition Does Not Prohibit'!
A wide open town erupts in Chicago! Mayor ‘Big Bill’ Thompson reigns as gangsters swarm through town. The Roaring Twenties are here! Alderman Tony Cermak fights the waves of back-room boodling in City Hall and carefully waits for the tide to turn. He is a one-man wrecking crew against the forces of corruption and malaise, making many friends and many enemies in his great labor. It is a tremendous uphill battle, but one the mighty Cermak was built for.
ACT II: Al Capone And Tony Cermak
Alphonse Capone cannot be undone. Prohibition has indeed given the gangster his grand job. He dances around new Mayor William Dever’s strongarm ‘reform’ tactics and attempts to draft the powerful Tony Cermak into his Underworld fold, where the Mob has made Chicago ‘Murder City’ in the eyes of the nation. Coming to Tony’s office, Capone pleads the kinship of impoverished origins and ethnic spirits that tie the two men, while Cermak speaks clearly of deeds, and that distinction in the history of leaders.
ACT III: 'I Didn't Come Over On The Mayflower'
The American stock market rises to a national crescendo and crashes. The Depression spells joblessness, homelessness and despair throughout the country. In the Chicago Mayoral Election of 1931, ‘Big Bill’, in a last ditch-attempt at carnival politics, questions the very surname of his challenger, Cook County President, Tony Cermak. Cermak is elected in a landslide and begins his tireless work to bring Chicago out of the fiscal Armageddon that Thompson, Capone and the Depression have set upon the city. Sensing a political horizon, Cermak and the Chicago Democrats pave the way for Franklin Roosevelt to lead the desperate nation.
ACT III: Let The World And Ages Know
An overworked Mayor Cermak succumbs to pneumonia while his great enemies try and force their way back to power in Chicago. The Mayor recovers and rises back to his fight! However, down in Miami, the deranged assassin Zangara contemplates the murder of the new President-Elect, and fortune turns for Mayor Cermak, who takes the bullets meant for FDR. Gut-shot, he tells Roosevelt that it was better for him to receive the wound. There is too much important work to be done in Washington. In epilogue of his death, the city of Chicago sings in ultimate homage to their late Mayor, great friend, and unforgettable leader.