Friday, September 02, 2005

Working: A Musical by Stephen Schwartz

Working is a different kind of musical: there are no main characters, no storyline, and no plot. What it has is what the Studs Terkel book on which it is based has – many voices, dramatic, comic, and tragic. I have been listening to a full-cast production by LA Theatre Works on compact disc while I commute to work, enjoying the songs and the many monologues of workers from all walks of life. I’m very glad I work at the library and not up on some girder high above the city nor in a cubicle deep inside some building!

The voices you hear while listening to Working are blue collar and white collar, young and old, happy and very sad. The most outlandish characters are the least effective; I do not think the one boss, who enjoys having thousands of workers do his bidding and who wants to pass his “values” to future bosses, was a very fair characterization; it did not fit with the many moving stories of other workers. The best are the steelworker, the immigrant who works in the produce department at a grocery, the receptionist, and the mother who stays home with her children; they all have good points about the unfairness of stereotyping. I was most incensed by the description of the job of the factory worker making luggage on an assembly line, who is always at risk of being hit by moving pieces or scalding steam. I was most disturbed by the newspaper copy boy who is about “to go postal”; I skipped his part the second time I listened.

Skipping is not easy: the two compact discs have no tracking. You have to sit on the fast forward button to move ahead. Tracking would help listeners who want to just hear the songs again.

My library purchased Working along with other compact discs, DVDs, and lots of books with an LSTA Weed and Feed Grant from the Illinois State Library. We spent $3200 improving our drama and theater collection this year. Last year we added many novels read by honors English classes with LSTA funds, and we hope next year to improve our science collection. In Illinois, the Weed and Feed Grants seem fairly easy to get, as long as you are willing to do a lot of paperwork.

We have Working if you want to borrow t, but I recommend you get one into your own library.

Schwartz, Stephen. Working: a Musical. LA Theatre Works, 2000. ISBN 1580811310

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