MA Players to perform Working, a show that highlights everyday individuals
“Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor, in short for a sort of life rather than a Monday to Friday sort of dying,” said journalist Studs Terkel, 1912-2008, whose career centered on talking with ordinary individuals from working-class Chicago and hearing their stories.
Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do is a collection of oral histories and transcripts from interviews conducted by Terkel. Published in 1974, the book centers on ordinary individuals, including a waitress, switchboard operator, fireman and housewife and what they do all day.
Stephen Schwartz turned Terkel’s work into a musical that was first performed in 1977, and that the Minnehaha Players will be performing next week April 19, 20 and 21 at the University of Minnesota’s Rarig Center. It’s a show that centers on the ordinary working class man and woman and the struggles and joys that they face each day.
“I think this show is a great vehicle for a variety of students to show their skills and to really showcase their God-given talents,” said director Nicholas Freeman. “It’s a show where a lot of people get a moment in the spotlight, which I think ultimately is what this show is about.”
After the August 2 explosion, Freeman was forced to change his plans for the fall play and spring musical. He described the moment when he knew that Working was the right fit for the Minnehaha community this year.
“It was the Tuesday [after the August 2 explosion] and I was at south campus sitting in the library, and everyone around me, my colleagues, other staff members, maintenance people, architects, construction people, were constantly coming in and out of the library,” said Freeman.
“I was working, trying hard to stay focused, and I would look up and just be amazed that people were working so hard to try and figure out what this all meant and that each person’s job was really important. That type of work and responsibility and feeling and purpose was so overwhelming to me that I feel like God just kind of brought this show, Working, into my mind, and I couldn’t escape it. I thought, ‘Of course, that’s what we’ve got to do’…It was a moment where I thought, ‘We need to really reflect on our community at MA.’”
Senior Greta Hallberg plays a waitress named Delores Dante in the show. She described her character and the way that she copes with her job.
“She’s been working in the service industry for 23 years,” said Hallberg of her character.
“She tries to find enjoyment in her job, so she treats the job like an acting gig, like she’s an actor on stage rather than a waitress giving service. I like that she says ‘I give service but I’m not servile; there is a difference,’ because I think that’s a really interesting distinction to make. Yes, she is a waitress who serves people, but that doesn’t mean that she is inferior or that she is submitting to other people. It’s a fun role.”
After rehearsing her role and preparing for the show for a few weeks, Hallberg explained one of the ideas she has taken away from the process.
“Everyone has a story,” she said. “We always say that, but when you really take the time to listen and empathize with other people you can understand them better and you get a better perspective of who they are as people and you can understand yourself better.
“We take for granted so many people in our lives that do stuff that we don’t even think about,” she said.
“The custodians clean our classrooms and the lunchroom and the floors and make sure that the trash gets taken out and things that we don’t even think about because they’re there when we get there, but the work that they do is meaningful. Everyone’s life has meaning and purpose, but it’s important to realize that.”