What Students Can Learn From WORKING

What Students Can Learn From WORKING


A job is more than how a person spends the day.  It's wrapped up in a person's identity - and dreams.  The musical WORKING perfectly illustrates just how important that connection is.  Adapted by Stephen Schwartz (PIPPIN, WICKED) and Nina Faso from a number of interviews, WORKING uses songs and monologues to tell the story of the everyday worker: from phone operator to steelworker to waitress to supermarket clerk.  Students, bogged down in homework and exams, can feel far removed from those who make their coffee, keep their classrooms clean, and drive their buses.  WORKING, however, shows that students can learn quite a bit about following their dreams from such workers.

A lot of the workers interviewed got into their careers at a young age.  Mike, an ironworker, started his job when he was eighteen, which is when most ironworkers begin.  "If I put a two-by-four on the floor, I couldn't knock you off it with a stick," he explains:

"But if I put it up fifty feet, and a little gust of wind comes and you over-react, you end up falling off.  That's why most ironworkers start off as kids.  When you're eighteen and just out of school, the guy next to you walks the beam, you're gonna try walking the beam too."

Sometimes, a job taken right out of school - something originally as short-term as a summer job - can become a lifelong passion.  And sometimes, due to unexpected circumstances, the necessity of finding a job can put that passion on hold.  The millworkers, for example, didn't intend to spend their lives doing the same repetitive tasks every day.  "I wanted to be a writer," one woman admits.  Others chime in:

"...a major-league baseball player..."
"...own a little farm..."
"If what I could be
Had been left to me
I would've been somethin'..."

Unfortunately, other things got in the way of those dreams:
"...but then I got married..."
"...then the kids came along..."
"but then my dad took sick..."

These workers impress the importance of following your dream while finding some way to balance it with financial realities.  Often, people have to make difficult choices, and are faced with responsibilities they hadn't forseen.  The way a person deals with those choices can have a lasting effect on her life - even a person as young as seventeen or eighteen.

WORKING gives high school students the valuable opportunity to think about who they are and what's important to them in the context of their future.  The show is a reminder that their decisions now are connected to who they will become later. Hopefully, students will leave the show more open to discovering an unknown passion, or better equipped to figure out how survive adulthood without sacrificing their dreams.

WORKING is a great fit for high school students in other ways.  Since the show is a collection of songs and monologues without a traditional narrative, it doesn't require much in the way of sets and costumes.   A simple set can actually enhance the material by putting all the focus on the characters and their stories, allowing them to stand on their own.  The very nature of the show is also ideal for high schools.  Since the show spotlights  a number of different characters, WORKING is an extremely strong ensemble piece.  It's ideal for a school with a talented pool of actors and singers to draw from - especially a school with a lot of strong female performers, since there are a number of female roles.  WORKING can also attract male students.  The chance to play a character like a steelworker - one not typically seen in musicals - can be appealing to male students who might not normally consider being in a musical.  Cost effective with an extremely flexible sized cast, WORKING is a show that can work well in any high school, no matter its resources. At the 2010 Thespian Festival, Tremper High School from Kenosha, Wisconsin, will show just how well-suited WORKING is for high schools with their performance.

To license WORKING, visit its MTI show page. Discuss WORKING and view production photos on its MTI ShowSpace page.