American workers are the stars of Theatre UAB's newest production, ???Working,??? with performances Nov. 8-11 and Nov. 15-18 at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Published: November 3, 2017
Based on Studs Terkel’s best-selling book of interviews with American workers, “Working” paints a vivid portrait of the women and men the world so often takes for granted: the schoolteacher, the phone operator, the waitress, the millworker, the mason and the housewife, just to name a few.
Terkel’s “Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do” inspired the original production, which premiered on Broadway in 1978 and was nominated for six Tony Awards. It featured songs by a number of composers, including Stephen Schwartz, James Taylor, Micki Grant, Mary Rogers and Craig Carnelia. Theatre UAB will present the 2010 revised version of the show, which includes two new songs by composer Lin-Manuel Miranda.
As Terkel said in his book, “Working” explores “the extraordinary dreams of ordinary people.” Throughout the 90-minute musical, the audience is introduced to more than 25 different characters, played by only six actors. They hear the stories of Mike Dillard, an iron worker; Freddy Rodriguez, a fast food worker; Maggie Holmes, a cleaning lady; Delores Dante, a waitress; Frank Decker, a truck driver; Terry Mason, a flight attendant; and more. They share their hopes, disappointments and sense of pride in their work. “Working” is directed by Valerie Accetta, MFA, with musical direction by Carolyn Violi and choreography by Roy Lightner.
“At a time when our country feels so divided, I felt that ‘Working’ gave our students an opportunity to listen,” Accetta said. “Exploring people’s real stories and struggles challenges us to consider people of different backgrounds without judgment.”
Accetta says the group has also been able to consider their own work in the theater, celebrating all of those who make this production possible and feeling gratitude for the opportunity to reveal truth in their work.
Throughout the rehearsal process, the cast and crew have engaged with local businesses as they explored these stories. The company took a tour of the U.S. Pipe factory in Bessemer and also met with Bart Maddox and Thomas Mathis, two men who work for the Iron Workers union (Local 92), who graciously lent a harness, tool belt and hardhat for the production.
“Having a chance to meet real people who are proud of the work they do has inspired all of us to truthfully and authentically give voice to people who may not be acknowledged for it,” Accetta said.
Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8-11 and Nov. 15-17, and at 2 p.m. Nov. 18, in UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center, Odess Theatre. Tickets are $20, $6 for students, and $10 for UAB employees and senior citizens. For tickets, call 205-975-2787 or go to www.AlysStephens.org. Visit Theatre UAB online at www.uab.edu/cas/theatre.