"Fire" represents an attempt to begin to create a new form in theater—one that melds the best traditions of American musical theater with the somewhat lost traditions of Epic theater—and integrates both with new visual arts and multimedia montage.
The play, "Fire on Pier 32," is a three act story about longshore workers in San Francisco from 1933 to the present. It is about several generations of dockworkers and their confrontation with successive employer offensives against them over the decades.
In Act I, the main protagonists of the play, two young dockworkers, Joe and Frank, experience together the great Maritime and San Francisco General Strike of 1934 in the first act of the play. They then in act two participate in a series of subsequent scenes representing major events in the history of their union, the ILWU. The concluding act three tells the story of the historic port employer lockout of workers on the west coast in 2002 and joint efforts by employers and the Bush administration to control and tame them. The Epilogue scene following act three brings events full circle in the actual burning of the old company union contracts, the ‘blue books’ on pier 32 in late fall 1933—from which the play takes its title.
The story of "Fire on Pier 32" at the most obvious level may be about the two young dockworker-protagonists, Frank and Joe, but it is also about their union, the ILWU, and about some of its most noted leaders like Harry Bridges and Henry Schmidt who also have major roles in the story. Yet, at its most fundamental level the play is a story about the meaning of Solidarity itself. Solidarity at a personal, emotional level. At the level of feeling and individual meaning. And in that sense, the play is representational of all workers in America over the past decades as they tried, not always successfully, to defend and preserve solidarity in the face of the many political, organizational, legal, cultural and technological forces at work undermining it since the high water decades of the thirties and forties.