Well-known Chicago radio personality Studs Terkel wrote a book focusing on a multitude of people and their jobs, some well-known and others barely noticed. The book was translated into an entertaining, insightful musical.
The Susquehanna University Department of Theatre presents “Working,” by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Fasco and others. Performances will be in the Degenstein Center Theatre Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
“I would say it’s a fairly honest exploration of the people. Some are very content with their job. They’re doing what they believe in,” said Dr. Jeanne Tiehen, assistant professor of theatre at Susquehanna University and director of the show. “But there are characters you meet that don’t feel that way.”
Some of those characters go on to explain what motivates them to stay with a job they don’t like. Mike Dillard, an iron worker, shows how proud he is of the work he does, but he wants something better for his own children.
“When I started portraying him I thought of my dad,” said Carter Anstine, a junior who takes on the roles of both Mike and Joe, a retired man. “One of the points Mike brings up is, he doesn’t want his son to be like him. He wants his son to be better than he is.
“I can’t imagine not wanting to be like my dad because I’ve always looked up to him.”
Themes like that — a son’s attitude toward his father, enjoying life’s moments because they fly by fast — will resonate with the audience, Anstine said.
His other character, Joe Zutty, grapples with what to do with his life when his work is over.
“I think some people don’t realize how much their jobs consume their whole life,” Anstine said. “He doesn’t know what his place is in society.”
Katy Trunz, a senior, portrays Amanda, a project manager; Kate, a housewife; and Alan, a community organizer.
“From Alan, the audience would become inspired. He essentially goes out and tries to get people to create organizations that will help people in need. He’s very passionate about it,” Trunz said.
She noted that Kate, the housewife, finds her job rewarding although not in a conventional, i.e., financial way.
“I think it’s really cool the show has given a platform for some of these jobs,” she said.
Through songs and conversations, 12 actors portray more than 30 jobs throughout the show.
People will see someone they know in at least one of the characters, Trunz said, and added, “Also, Carter’s very funny as Joe. They should come see that.”
Audience members will appreciate Trunz’s portrayals, as well, Anstine said, admitting, “Katy made me cry the one night (during her housewife song).”
“We have a great cast with some amazing voices, some really talented actors,” Tiehen said. “We kind of get the stage to show jobs you don’t always hear about.”