Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Wirtz Center’s ‘Working’ features stories of Evanston workers in documentary musical

Madeline King/The Daily Northwestern
“Working: A Musical – Localized Version” runs from Feb. 2 to Feb. 11 at the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts.

“Working: A Musical – Localized Version” at the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts highlights the experiences of local Evanston workers through song, speech, dance and video. The show runs from Feb. 2 to Feb. 11. 

Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso originally created the “Working” script in the 1970s based on interviews with workers published in Studs Terkel’s “Working: People Talk about What They Do All Day and How They Feel about What They Do.” The two collaborated with numerous composers to create the score, also based on the interviews. Additional scenes have since been added based on more recent interviews. 

Today, the show’s script allows for theatre companies to add local elements to the story and rearrange the order of songs and monologues. 

To incorporate stories of local workers into the show, video artist Rasheed Peters recorded interviews detailing the subjects’ personal experiences with first jobs, familial influences and other stories about working. 

Joseph Williams-Salgado, a senior at Evanston Township High School, was interviewed by Peters. He said the incorporation of local workers’ perspectives in the show gives representation to “people who really don’t get the spotlight they deserve.”

“When different people hear other people’s unique stories, it can inspire them in their own lives and help them implement things to better their own lives,” Williams-Salgado said.  

The video interviews are projected throughout the show in between songs and scenes. 

“Working” Director Erin Ortman said these video interviews enhance existing songs and help illuminate the show’s purpose of revealing “the extraordinary dreams of ordinary people.”

“What the play is doing, I believe, is to really, authentically go into the audience and asking one to imagine walking in the shoes of another character,” Ortman said. 

Each actor depicts the lives of multiple real people in “Working,” singing songs and reciting monologues based on the original interviews. 

Communication junior and “Working” cast member Coco Gonzalez said she feels a great responsibility to represent these stories accurately. 

“It is so important to me to have put the work in that I have, so that when I go on that stage and I play the seven different characters that I play throughout the musical, I feel connected to every single one of them and feel like I’m honoring them through myself,” Gonzalez said. 

To achieve this accuracy in storytelling, “Working” cast members participated in a class during Fall Quarter to discuss the ethics of creating documentary theater. The cast also conducted extensive research into their characters and the show.

Communication sophomore Oliver Tam said the class made him confident that he and his fellow cast members will deliver an impactful performance. 

“We’ve put a lot of time and care into the characters that we’ve researched and made our own versions of,” Tam said. “I think we’re going to represent them accurately to a pretty solid degree.”

“Working” will feature a talkback with Ortman, cast members and Assistant Dean and Wirtz Center Executive Artistic Director Tanya Palmer following the Feb. 8 performance.

Gonzalez said she hopes the show inspires audience members to think more about the lives, thoughts and dreams of those around them. 

“I just hope that when people leave the theater, the next time that they see a janitor or see a teacher, they think twice about what their life is like, and maybe even have more respect for that person than they did before seeing the show,” Gonzalez said. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @madelineking_18

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