Do you like your job? UC Park Players present musical ‘Working’

The beloved local theatre group the Union City Park Players bring their latest production to the stage of The Waterford Towers in Edgewater. “Working” celebrates the spirit of the average working American through a colorful rendition of musical numbers exploring all careers from iron welders to stay-at-home moms and a retiree.

The Park Players first brought their theatre group to the Waterford Towers last September, where they were well-received and asked to return for another performance.

“We did a review in September and they wanted us to come back,” said Joseph Cocklin, director and cast member. “[The theatre space] was really nice, and we liked it acoustically.”

“Working” first appeared on Broadway in 1978, and was adapted for the stage by Stephen Schwartz (“Godspell”) and Nina Faso. Original music and lyrics were provided by Stephen Schwartz, Micki Grant, Craig Carnelia, James Taylor, Mary Rodgers (music), and Susan Birkenhead (lyrics). Stephan Schwartz was also the composer for one of Broadway’s latest hits, “Wicked.”

Based on the best-selling book of interviews by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Studs Terkel, “Working” is a unique musical that journeys through a typical American workday in the lives of many colorful characters, which are defined by their distinctive quirks and expressions.

“That the everyday lives of “common” men and women should be so compelling and moving will surprise and inspire anyone who has ever punched a time clock,” said Conklin. “It’s a highly original look at the American landscape that is simply impossible to forget.”

The workers

The production includes 26 workers, including a parking lot attendant, corporate executive, newsboy, schoolteacher, gasoline attendant, housewife, fireman, waitress, mill worker, sailor, and so on. Each worker talks and sings about their daily routine, and explores their joys, concerns, and hopes and aspirations.

The Park Players, which is a multigenerational theatre group, has a total of 17 cast members, some who are playing multiple roles. The directors for “Working” are Joseph Conklin and John Fiorenza, who have also taken parts in the production.

“A lot of the people auditioned and we picked the people that [best] fit the roles,” said John Fiorenza. “So far, it’s been high-energy and it’s been working well.”

Many of the cast members have been familiar faces on the stage with the Park Players since they were very young.

“I was 9 when I started with the Park Players, and it’s been a good experience for me every year,” said Rene Martinez, 21, who will play Roberto and Charlie Blose. “I like the people, and Joe and John have been like uncles to me.”

“This is a great show and the amount of talent we have for this show is outstanding,” said Alexander Diaz, 19, Brother Trucker. “I leave with a smile everyday.”

Diaz first performed with the Park Players at the age of 16 as a cast member for the production “Once upon a Slipper.”

The Park Players are also introducing a couple of new faces to their roster of actors.

“I am playing a secretary, a housewife, and a maid,” said Stacy Howie, 23, who just and joined the Park Players about a year ago. “It’s been nothing but laughs and good times, and a great learning experience with the other actors. I’ve learned a lot from Joe.”

“I like the fact that they are very hard working and they take it very seriously, but with a fun twist,” said Dianna Angelli, 29, one of what Conklin refers to as the “Desperate Housewives” in the play.

The masterpiece

Terkel’s original book entitled Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do, received national acclaim by reviewers from New York to Los Angeles and received a National Book Award nomination. Terkel had interviewed people throughout the United States about working, their jobs, its frustrations and rewards.

Terkel’s authors note on the Colony Theatre website said, “Several years ago, when my adventure began, gathering material for the book, I had no preconceived notion of how people felt about their jobs. I was vaguely aware of an undercurrent of restlessness and discontent, of grievances, spoken and unspoken. What I was searching for was something more specific: the thoughts and feelings of these people in their own words. What I discovered, aside from attitudes, was a buried language. The lingo of ‘ordinary’ people is quite extraordinary, once the conditioned clichés are cut away. There is a rough beauty to the talk, at times touching the poetic.”

According to the Colony Theatre Company, Terkel was born in 1912 and grew up in Chicago, where graduated from the University of Chicago in 1932 and then from Chicago Law School in 1934.

An actor of radio soap operas and disk jockey, among his other media highlights, Terkel had also appeared in Eight Men Out, a John Sayles feature film about the Black Sox scandal of 1919. Terkel has hosted the exceedingly popular talk show on WFMT radio heard daily throughout the country.

“Working” will be running at The Waterford Towers, 190 River Road, Edgewater, from May 13 until the 21st, with a special showing just for building residents on May 19. Tickets will be $18 for adults, and $16 for seniors and students.


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