“Working” musical offers a glimpse into American life

EWU theatre's production of "Working" displays a cross section of American workers

In this collection of photos, students perform "Working" the musical on opeining night at the EWU Theatre. The musical featured solo and ensemble pieces with characters singing about their jobs.

By Erik Rotness, Arts and Features Editor

A prostitute, a fireman and a flight attendant walked onto the EWU stage and put on a show for EWU Theatre’s fall production of “Working” on Nov. 9.

An ironworker, a housewife, a truck driver and more were also present as characters in the musical, telling the audience about their work and how it makes them feel. The performers wanted to give the crowd a chance to hear these people’s stories and connect with them.

“We wanted to show these were actual people,” senior Matthew Pope said. “These were actual things people have said. […] to Studs Terkel who conducted interviews.”

“Working” the musical is based on its namesake, a book by Studs Terkel containing over 100 interviews with American workers.

“On the stage is a representation of working class America,” senior Nathan Cardenas said. “Everything that we talk about, everything that we sing, everything that we feel, was felt by someone at one time about their job. It’s not just a reflection, it’s us telling their stories and letting them live through us.”

Anybody watching the performance can connect with a character because working is something that everyone does, according to   sophomore Tristan Roseff. At points, it can almost feel like you and the character you associate with are the only ones in the room, according to Roseff.

Freshman Danika Nolton said she personally connected with one of her characters, a flight attendant named Terry Mason, because of their shared dream of leaving the town they grew up in far behind.

Cardenas could also relate to one of his characters because of their shared experiences.

“Uparche, my caregiver character, he’s got a really great soul you know?” Cardenas said. “And I was really able to connect with him because I spent a year. […] taking care of my grandmother after she had a stroke. I spent my senior year of high school doing running start and getting my associates degree while also having a full-time job as a caregiver for my grandmother. And so, I really feel for him. I know what it’s like to have someone depend on you. To wonder, why the hell do we have this large amount of people that are just forgotten. Ignored. Not with their families. I was really able to connect with him on that level.”

Some characters touch on aspects of their jobs other than their duties, like how their families feel about their line of work, how much they make and sometimes how they wish they could escape their situation.

“Some people love their jobs, some people hate it, but either way they each have this unique perspective and its really important for us to know and important for us to hear,” EWU senior Hazel Bean said. “Especially as we ourselves as graduates move out and into the workforce.”

There are at least two things that a student getting ready to graduate and enter the workforce can learn from the production.

 “[The first is] that watching the show is a good way to see what it’s like to work a certain type of job,” Cardenas said.

“[The second,] that they matter,” Roseff said. “They’re not just a title. They are a person and everyone who has a job is a person.”

Performances of “Working” are on Nov. 15 at 5 p.m. as well as Nov. 16-17 at 7:30 p.m. in the EWU Theatre. Students are admitted for free with school ID. General admission costs $10.•

View the slideshow below for a glimpse into the production.