Backstage with The Washington Post: WORKING – A Musical
There’s something ironic about producing a show called “Working” at a time when the number of Americans out of work is the highest since the Great Depression. “It seemed like an interesting question,” said Shirley Serotsky, who is directing the musical at the Keegan Theatre. “How would a show all about defining yourself by your job, or being defined by other people by what you do, play at a time when more people in this country are dealing with what it means to lack that definition?”
The play, said Serotsky, “gives voice to the person whose story we don’t usually hear. .?.?. We don’t see a lot of plays about truck drivers [or] waitresses. These are the people we interact with everyday, but it’s not a cultural norm to deem those stories as important enough to be told on the stage.”
What “Working” does is pluck those characters out of the Bruce Springsteen songs where they’ve been hanging around since the ’80s and set them smack at center stage. When the economy is low, interest in those stories is high. With “the Occupy movement .?.?. it seems, in this country, that the tolerance for [these stories] has flipped over and we’ve said, ‘No, this story is important, too,’?” said Serotsky.
The cast originally worked with the 1999 version of the show, which is based on Studs Terkel’s best-selling book of interviews, and found it had “frustrating anachronisms,” said Serotsky. “You talk about a pay phone and immediately people are going to step out and say, ‘C’mon, a pay phone?” They negotiated to get the 2009 edition instead. “It was really important to me that it didn’t feel like a period piece.”
DATEApril 18, 2012