The Ballad of Joe Hill

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
Alive as you and me
Said I, “But Joe, you’re ten years dead.”
“I never died,” said he.
“I never died,” said he.

Presented at the EASTERN STATE PENITENTIARY in 2006 and Again in 2013

Inside Eastern State Penitentiary, a lone woman sings a haunting refrain before kicking off a raucous vaudeville party with a ragtag band of clowns. With dark humor and the high-energy movement of early animation, they enact the story of Joe Hill, union leader, songwriter, and the defendant in a sensationalist murder trial that ended with his execution.

The 2013 re-imaging on the company’s 2006 Philly Fringe hit featured huge and loud singing steeped in union-style song, music made from found percussion—saws, vases, pots—and the lyrics of Joe Hill echoing down the prison cellblock. A journey of railcars, murder, sham trials, secrets taken to the grave, dreams, mystery women, and the war between unions and robber barons.

In short: music, humor, great physicality, daydream, vilification of the underclass.


Directed by Adrienne Mackey
with writing by Tim Martin and the ensemble
Performed by Robert DaPonte, Ed Miller, Justin Jain, Ross Beschler, Dawn Falato, Dave Sweeny and Bradley Wrenn
Lighting Design by Maria Shaplin
Soundscape/Vocal Coaching by Adrienne Mackey
Costume Design by Rebecca Kanach
Stage Management by Flora Vassar

Special thank to Joe Hill’s original creators Robert DaPonte, Brendon Gawel, Liz Green, Justin Jain, Derrick Loafman, Adrienne Mackey, Tim Martin, Audrey Pernell, Dave Sweeny and Bradley Wrenn


“In its 17-year history, the Fringe Festival has spawned a number of shows … that deserve the label ‘masterpiece.’ Now joining this select group is Swim Pony’s thrillingly inventive The Ballad of Joe Hill.” -J. Cooper Robb, Philadelphia Weekly

“Captivating” – Jim Rutter, The Philadelphia Inquirer

WHYY’s Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane.