NEWARK — Students in Newark Community High School’s Drama Club will spend time Friday, May 4, and Saturday, May 5, celebrating the hard work of American people in their spring musical, “Working.”
“We decided to do ‘Working’ because I have a lot of kids,” said show director and English teacher at NCHS, Libby Wheeler. “It gives a lot of kids a lot of different roles and I wanted to challenge them.”
“Working,” the musical, is based off of “Working,” the book, by Studs Terkel. In the 1970s, Terkel interviewed everyday people — truckers, waitresses, housewives and other hardworking Americans — to record and celebrate their stories.
“He was really surprised to discover that there was a poetry of the everyday language that was used,” Wheeler said.
Terkel published his interviews in his book, “Working,” but with help from songwriters like James Taylor and Stephen Schwartz, the lyricists for “Wicked,” the interviews were transformed into a musical.
“This is all about taking everybody’s everyday language and making it something beautiful,” Wheeler said.
To better get to know their own roles, the Newark students did some interviews of their own.
Senior Renita Jager said by interviewing someone who worked in a factory, she was able to connect with her mill worker character more.
“I used to think of it as just a character,” Jager said. “But now I’m trying to put this out there for people who have been in the same situation to say, ‘I know this is how you feel.’”
Junior Rebekah Whitlock will portray the only character without a job. She is a street beggar, but hopes her role will change the way people think about others that are on the streets.
“It may not be their fault that they are (on the streets). You should stop and think rather than walking by and not even glancing at them, pretending like they aren’t real people,” she said.
She said she learned that not everyone can help that they end up on the streets.
Wheeler is hoping for a large crowd over the weekend. She said the last production the Drama Club put on this school year had the largest crowd yet. The crowd was more than double the size of that for a normal Newark production.
‘”Everything is student-run. We train them and then let them go. And they have done an amazing job,” the director said.
Working will start at 7 p.m. tonight, Friday, at the high school, 413 Chicago Road, Newark, and be staged again at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $5.
The Drama Club will be collecting canned goods to be donated to the Kendall County Food Pantry and anyone who donates a canned item will, in turn, receive $1 off admission.
“They work really hard. All of the kids do,” Wheeler said. “This is one of the easiest jobs I’ve ever had because of the work ethic of the kids in this school. They really are pretty extraordinary.”