The Last American Hammer
Peter Hilliard & Matt Boresi • February 22, 25, 28; March 1, 2020
Milcom Negley, a one-man militia, rages against the tyranny of federal overreach. He is hunkered down in a rural Toby jug museum in a rust belt Ohio town where Tink Enraught, a mannered curatrix, offers him tea and cookies. Milcom is a “Thirteenther” – a conspiracy theorist who believes an obscure, would-be Thirteenth amendment negates the authority of our government. He occupies the museum because it is the only place left in his failed town to receive federal funds – a grant for the upkeep of a rare 17th-century British pitcher known as “Sir Oswyn.”
Although Milcom expects to be swarmed by military drones, attention is paid only by Agent Reyes, a young rookie FBI field specialist. Milcom explains that the town’s only major source of employment – a hammer manufacturer – has gone under, leaving the residents lost. He is armed with “the Last American Hammer” to roll off the plant’s line and intends to hold a proxy trial against the US government using Toby jugs as physical stand-ins for a court.
The Last American Hammer will star current and former Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artists, and be performed in the intimate environs of Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters, 2425 Liberty Avenue. Limited capacity.
The Last American Hammer was commissioned by UrbanArias with very generous support from Dan and Gloria Logan; and an anonymous admirer of UrbanArias in memory of Deborah Brewer. Pittsburgh Opera’s production is sponsored by the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University.
Antonia Botti-Lodovico*: Agent Dee Dee Reyes
The Artistic Team
+ Pittsburgh Opera debut
* Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist
** Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist alumni
Click play below or download these excerpts for an offline treat!
- "My poor little museum" - sung by Elizabeth Futral as Tink Enraught and Timothy Mix as Milcom Negley
- "The 13th Amendment" - sung by Timothy Mix as Milcom Negley
- “The value of delicate things” - sung by Elizabeth Futral as Tink Enraught
- "The Last American Hammer" - performed by Timothy Mix as Milcom Negley
ACT I. Act One opens on Milcom Negley, a conspiracy theorist, militia man and unemployed hammersmith. He has occupied The National Toby Jug Museum, a cozy gallery full of Toby Jugs, which are antique ceramic pitchers shaped like people. At Milcom’s request, the museum’s curator Tink Enraught has called the sheriff, who has alerted the Joint Terrorism Task Force. While the two wait for the authorities to arrive, they lament the hard times their town has fallen on.
When law enforcement finally arrives, Milcom is dismayed to discover that his demands have not been taken seriously. Instead of SWAT teams with armored vehicles and helicopters, they’ve sent young rookie FBI Agent Dee Dee Reyes. Her partner has holed up in a local diner eating sauerkraut balls, leaving her to deal with this ‘unarmed, non-hostage situation’ by herself. Agent Reyes is also dismayed, realizing that what she thought could be her ‘big chance’ for an important assignment is essentially rookie hazing.
Tink invites Agent Reyes to join her for tea and cookies as Milcom launches into his conspiracy theory on the Thirteenth Amendment, a would-be amendment that negates the authority of the federal government. In Milcom’s impassioned ranting, he expresses outrage over the fact that the little Toby Jug Museum is the only place left in his dilapidated and failed town to receive federal funding. The Museum receives a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for the upkeep of a rare 17-century British jug known as “Sir Oswyn,” which is the crown jewel in the Museum’s collection and the only jug of its kind still in existence. Milcom calls this an “insulting waste of taxman’s plunder” and a “federally funded heap of prissy elitist crap.” Deeply offended, Tink launches into a touching soliloquy where she defends her quaint museum and praises the intrinsic value of “delicate things.”
Annoyed that Milcom and Tink are wasting her time, Agent Reyes starts to leave. Stopping her, Milcom reveals the content of the case he has been carrying – a steel hammer with a curved hickory handle. This is the last American hammer made at the now-closed factory where Milcom used to work, “a product of freedom and muscle and sweat…by an underpaid, and overlooked, and doomed American man.”
Milcom then launches into a tirade against Agent Reyes, berating her for enforcing the rules of The Man, citing a long list of perceived governmental outrages against its citizens. In reply, Agent Reyes explains that she tries not to make assumptions about people and situations before having all the facts, and she wishes that Milcom would give her the same courtesy.
Agent Reyes asks Tink how she managed to get wrapped up in all of this. Tink reveals that she was a political revolutionary in her younger years. She wants Milcom to share his grievances with authorities because she can empathize with his passion, even if she thinks he’s misguided.
Meanwhile, Milcom has arranged a number of Toby Jugs in a mock courtroom scene. He intends to put the corrupt, dishonest US government on trial, and is using the jugs as jurors and court officers. He himself is the prosecutor. The precious Sir Oswyn jug is the defendant. Tink grows increasingly concerned for the jugs’ safety. Milcom makes Tink and Agent Reyes take the stand and answer his questions. Milcom presents an enraged closing argument for the prosecution, accusing America of abandoning its people and closing factories like his down, while spending money to fund trinkets like the Toby Jugs.
Milcom then has Agent Reyes make a closing statement on behalf of the government, but it does nothing to change his mind. He announces that the jury has found the defendant guilty on charges of tyranny, illegitimate power and corruption of values. The sentence is destruction… “by thirty-two ounces of Bethlehem steel.” Milcom destroys the Sir Oswyn jug with his hammer, as Tink and Reyes watch in horror. Milcom drops the hammer. Tink removes the other jugs from the table. Agent Reyes places the hammer back in its case and announces the sheriff will be coming. She thanks Tink for the tea, takes one last cookie, and exits. Tink sadly sweeps up the shattered remains of the prized jug, while Milcom watches with guilt.
- Courtesy of Pittsburgh Opera
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- Run time: To be confirmed
- Understand Every Word: The Last American Hammer is sung in English with English supertitles projected above the stage at all performances
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- Audio Description available
- Braille Programs available
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