On Nov. 4, “Working” will open at Stillwater Area High School. The 1978 musical is based on the book of the same name by Studs Terkel and has a book and music written by Stephen Schwartz, known for Broadway hits such as “Godspell,” “Pippin” and “Wicked”.
No adaptation of the muscal has been quite like the SAHS version, who have localized the show completely to the Stillwater community.
Students spent weeks interviewing over 60 workers in the Stillwater community, and have built their show around their jobs and lives with most of the monologues in the show being created based on the interviews students conducted.
“It really is about telling people’s stories, hearing different perspectives, perspectives that may have been pushed down in the past because of history and really shining a light on what is more pushed back,” Senior Adam Long said.
Long talked about his experience interviewing an employee at the copy center at SAHS and how her story impacted him.
“I had interacted with her before, and I had never given it a second thought. But she had an amazing, amazing, moving, compelling story, and you would never know based on the fact that you’re just seeing them maybe once every week,” he said.
Through the show, students hope to highlight people who are often not highlighted and offer a perspective that is not always seen on stage.
“We wanted the audience to be able to relate, to be able to look on stage and finally go, ‘I see myself there.’ Because a lot of theatre, it’s these extravagant stories, it’s these big people. But what ‘Working’ is, is focusing on the people that make the world go round,” Senior Erica Bartkey said.
SAHS Theatre Coordinator and director of the show Grif Sadow explained how important he felt it was for students to have this experience of learning about their community, and build points of commonality between themselves and “the people who we just walk by everyday.”
“Especially after COVID, I wanted something that celebrated and honored those individuals that, you know, keep the area moving and contribute to making our lives easier, more comfortable, better, healthier, productive,” he said.
Senior Mary Sowinski described the show as being like a choir, reflecting the voices of many through singular characters. They noted how important it is to recognize the work that people do, even if it is something seen as being simple.
“I just think it’s really important to see people we don’t normally look at, and just being like that person who gave me a sandwich has a whole entire life story that I know nothing about and maybe that five dollar tip helped them out,” she said.
She also described how the show allows the actors to pull back the layers on how different people are viewed.
“And there are other times where you see everyone past race or ethnicity, gender. You see everyone past the material things in life and you see a person and a soul, instead of just what the world wants you to see,” they said.
Beyond the work that is being done on stage, students have learned a lot throughout the process of creating the show.
Senior Tyler Quade, who is a technician working on sound and projections for the production, talked about how growing up in theatre has allowed him to grow on a personal level and gave him his own sense of community.
“I’ve seen current juniors who have changed so much since their freshman year. And it’s one of those things where it’s like ‘oh, I was them once,’” he said. “The people who like, go to space, they say they see the Earth and then they get filled with this overwhelming sensation that they are so small and like how everyone is like together and stuff like that. And that’s kind of how it feels i’m like ‘oh.’”
Bartkey noted how crucial she thinks theatre has been to her high school experience.
“I have gained so much experience in public speaking, and then I was able to go on to Speech and go to State. And I created these great foundations,” she said.
Sadow and the students all echoed that they hope audience members feel like they see themselves on stage through the show that they have created.
“We need to respect each other and take care of each other and understand each other,” Sadow said.
“Working” has performances Nov. 4, 5, 10, 11 and 12 at 7:00 p.m. and Nov. 6 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at sahstheatre.org/tickets.
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