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Working It

local stage adaptation of Studs Terkel book couldn’t come at a better time

Kristin Frosch, photos by Leah Dunbar

IF THE SHOE FITS, SELL IT. Based on Studs Terkel’s book comprised of interviews with working class Americans in the 70s, Working follows the lives of several working class people of varied occupations and walks of life. Above: actor/director Ann Salt.
 
IF THE SHOE FITS, SELL IT. Based on Studs
Terkel’s book comprised of interviews with
working class Americans in the 70s, Working
follows the lives of several working class
people of varied occupations and walks of life.
(Above: actor/director Ann Salt.)
Perhaps one of the most timely theatrical pieces for today’s audiences, Working is set to make its local debut at the Mabel Tainter Theater this month.

Based on Studs Terkel’s book comprised of interviews of working class Americans in the 70s, the production proves especially relevant in today’s challenging and controversial political and economic climate. The story follows the lives of several working class people of varied occupations and walks of life. The interviews reveal the commonalities of human nature and the human experience. While protests raged in Madison, Menomonie Theatre Guild’s Executive Director Blaine Halverson was jumping on the opportunity to bring Working to the area, having a deep appreciation for the story’s importance to modern middle class audiences.

“It’s a mesmerizing book about what people do and how they feel about what they do,” said Halverson. “It really serves as a sort of homage to the working people who move our culture and yet are now getting the shorter and shorter end of the stick.”

Veteran actor and director, Ann Salt, was intrigued by the possibility of the show as it strongly relates to effects of the recent political atmosphere in Wisconsin. But Salt was initially hesitant to take on such a production. Over time, others began to express interest in the possibility of the show, for the story’s messages have the ability to transcend time and speak directly to ordinary, working people. The combined enthusiasm renewed Salt’s interest in the project.

“I told Ann about these serendipitous conversations and she was re-emboldened,” said Halverson.

Despite initial eagerness, the production process was a lengthy one. The technical details, plus the hefty royalties that would have to be paid to the musical production company for just one reading, were enough to crush enthusiasm.

“It also meant a much more logistically difficult program, requiring the learning of the music,” said Halverson. “Since we were looking for something simple to produce that could feature many people without requiring a long, intense rehearsal commitment ... it simply wasn’t going to work.”

But after speaking to the book’s publisher and subsequently the Terkel family, an agreement was made to do selected readings. The show could then be produced royalty free. They used Facebook recruit actors, and Halverson said, “The response has been nothing short of overwhelming.”

Perhaps the diligence and persistence of work needed to bring the production to the stage reinforces the themes of the show itself. It’s a relatable and timely production that should appeal to diverse audiences.

Working • May 27-28 • Mabel Tainter Theater, Menomonie • 7:30pm • $8 • 235-0001 • MenomonieTheaterGuild.com