"Forgotten: The Murder at the Ford Rouge Plant"

Viewer's Comments:

Detroit September 9-11, 2005:

"Living all of my life in Detroit has left me with a tremendous sense of pride in her people and what they are capable of. However, as I've grown older, I have found myself becoming busier and busier and as a result began drifted away from my roots to the point where I had almost forgotten how significant my city is. Then last Thursday I, along with my fellow members of the YLP, bore witness to Steve Jones' phenomenon, Forgotten; and that feeling I once had returned, amplified threefold.

The Forgotten tale tells of the life of the workers at the Ford Rouge Plant, specifically of the endeavor of one man, Lewis Bradford. It tells of how he rallied the workers to fight against Henry Ford as he descended further and further to the right. They strove for a labor union in order to be protected and to have rights as workers. The undertaking of these extraordinary people seemed hopeless. But it was everything but that. Hope was one of the few strengths they had against such an overwhelming immorality; hope, a strong sense of justice, and a colossal will. The play really brought this struggle to life, and the music added so much emotion to every word that was spoken. Often, after a song ended, I would come back to reality jaw-dropped and have to remember to start breathing again. Without a doubt the final song of the play held the most emotion I have felt in a long time. All the feelings that had filled me throughout the play came to a climax during the last song and the sensation was indescribable. I found myself on the verge of tears and covered with goose bumps; the song had instilled something in me and I barely had the strength to leap out of my chair and applaud until my hands hurt.

As an actor myself I immensely appreciated the presentation put on by the actors and actresses. And as a musician I was left in awe of the musical performance. But the play performance itself was not the most important thing I saw that night, the play was simply a medium through which my eyes were opened to the truth behind what I believe to be one the most important social movements of the twentieth century. This play made me realize the sacrifices that people are willing to make for a cause. Even if their plight had failed and they had not given up it would have had the same effect. These were ordinary people put under circumstances that no one should have to face, but they faced them together with a determination that was far from ordinary. That alone is so inspirational: I now know the importance of working together and not giving up to achieve what's important. I know that I would be willing to put myself through what they had to go through. And I know that what they gave, what they did, will not be forgotten."

-Gabriel Beutel-Gunn, Age 16
Cranbrook Peace Foundation's Youth Leadership Project
Detroit, MI

Detroit March 5-7. 2004:

"We were so very fortunate to have been able to see the wonderful production the 'Forgotten' this past Saturday. It was so very moving, and held true to history. It was one of the very best productions I've ever seen! The audience contained many that give their lives today to support the common worker, as well as some of the Bradford family and Mr. and Mrs. David Bonair.

Organizing is still no piece of cake. I truly would hope that this musical could be shown to the vast majority, hoping they could realize what our union brothers and sisters did for us not so very long ago."

-Terri Riffee
Flat Rock, Michigan

"I just wanted to thank each of you for joining me on Sunday. I know there were several of us who where convinced that our departed spouses were also there in spirit. . . And we KNOW they were smiling, because their stories were being told. "Forgotten" is such a fine, fine gift to their memories, to the working people of Detroit and to those of us who still believe that struggling for a better world is the greatest of vocations. And how better to celebrate such aspirations than with truly fine music which lyrically and rhythmically tells an heroic and true story. Oh my, how it captured my heart. And didn't you just feel proud that Detroit has so many talented folks - from our dear friend Kae in that wonderful chorus, to Bill (he was the music director who was also on keyboards) to Elyse (the powerhouse in red and black who introduced the performance)."

-Marti Alston
Member UAW Loc 1981 - National Writers Union
Detroit, MI

(Marti Alston writes: "My late husband, Christopher Alston, was a Ford Hunger Marcher, a founding member of the UAW and a leader in the effort to organize African American workers at the Rouge Plant in the early 1940's. As part of that organizing drive, he wrote a pamphlet titled, "Henry Ford and the Negro People," to show how it was a lie that Henry Ford was a friend to Black people in particular and workers in general. After our marriage in 1973, we did community organizing in a near eastside community in Detroit, called Forest Park, an area that the newspapers had once labeled as "Detroit's Worst Slum." It now has low and moderate income housing for families and seniors.")

"The story line lovingly and tenderly presents Ella and Lewis's undying love reinforced by their common faith, their love and concern for their family, their visions, but stressed Lewis's unfettered commitment to Peace, God and human potential set against Ella's maternal responsibilities like rent and food and her anxiety for Lewis's safety. On the global scale the story is an epic describing the genius we have for invention, for organization, for improving the lives of everyone - but inevitably diminished by the evil of greed, lust for power, hatred and corruption (portrayed by images of Henry Ford, Father Coughlin, and Harry Bennett). Bound together by hunger, illness, misery, contempt and murder, the repressed move unsteadily toward a better society. Each of the three performances was sold out, standing room only. The music, the lyric, the portrayals were emotional; Ella Bradford had many of the audience wiping tears from their eyes.

It was a grand weekend and I'm thrilled to have been part of it. . .to be in a community of generally unself-centered, informed believers in the interconnectedness of mankind."

-Bob Loftfield
Son-in-law of Lewis and Ella Bradford
Albuquerque, New Mexico
    &n bsp                                           

"I apologize that it's taken me so long to tell you in writing how fabulous and ground-breaking your show was in Detroit. Wowy zowy! Yes, I had no socks by the time I left!! Such good, good work and so wonderfully creative. Really inspiring and it also really spoke to the heart. One of my favorite moments was the song about guns, religion and money. . .Brilliant! Anyway, what a beautiful integration of music and politics."

-Jeanne Mackey
Ann Arbor, Michigan


"The material below is what I sent by email to various friends, spontaneously after the performance:

Oh, you've got to see "Forgotten," should you ever get the chance. . .

. . .the small theater at Marygrove College was SRO with union activists. Made me feel like I was actually part of a labor movement, and gave me renewed respect for our ancestors in the struggle. . .

I'm so glad I got to see "Forgotten." What a show! I was on the bus chartered by the Clerical Technical Union of MSU, along with members of UAW Locals 652 and 602. People couldn't say enough about the play afterward. The bus was just buzzing.

I abhor most standing ovations because they've become pro forma, de rigueur, and all that. So I usually stay seated. But I knew, before "Forgotten" was done, that I'd be standing for it. That was a well-deserved ovation. Thanks for bringing this story to life for us.

It was refreshing to see a performance with social impact, something about working-class history. I knew some of the history, but the story of the Bradfords was new to me. One of the things we talked about on the bus was that this is not ancient history; people are still dying in the union struggle around the world."

-Tim Bogar
Lansing Labor News
Member, GCIU Local 2/289
Lansing, Michigan

Comments posted with permission of the authors.

The "Forgotten" Story * Performances * News * Orders
About Us * Contact Us * Home