Like it or not, for better or worse, most people cannot help but define themselves by the work they do. They spend at least 40 hours a week at the workplace, and it is here that their greatest triumphs -- along with their most bitter disappointments -- are often played out.
Studs Terkel was well aware of the central role work plays in people's lives when he researched and wrote the book "Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do" in 1974. Terkel's book was adapted into a musical in 1977, and through the years it has been revised to reflect the changing times. During the first two weekends in August, the musical will close out the 2018-19 season at Artistic Civic Theatre in Dalton.
Directed by Lori Etheridge, the musical features a talented cast of six men and six women, all of whom play multiple roles during the show. When speaking of these talented performers, Etheridge said, "This cast of both young and middle-aged men and women is stellar! You don't want to miss it!"
Some of the musical's characters include a steelworker who talks about the dangers of the job; a housewife who complains that people doubt her intelligence because she chooses to stay at home with her family; and a retired widower who finds various ways to occupy his time. A truck driver, a waitress, a cleaning lady, a bricklayer and a schoolteacher, among others, also share their thoughts about work in general, and their jobs in particular, through a series of monologues and musical numbers.
Rob Thompson, the managing director at ACT, saw the show on London's West End just as he was getting ready to retire from his career of 28 years. He says he was struck by how much the experiences of the various characters in the show mirrored his own.
"Ultimately, the musical is about the dignity and importance of work, and the contributions that we make to the society around us through our chosen professions," Thompson said. "Everyone needs 'Something to Point To,' as the characters sing at the end of the show. We need something to be proud of, and our jobs often provide us with this psychological boost."
Patti Renz, who plays a waitress and high-society fundraiser, among other roles, says that "Working" has always been on her "bucket list" and "There are so many talented people in the cast!" Her thoughts are echoed by Raymundo Moncayo, who adds he is "extremely excited for the public to see the hard work that we've put into making this a great show."
"Working: The Musical" features a book by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Fasco, with music and lyrics by Schwartz, Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, James Taylor, Mary Rodgers, Susan Birkenhead and Lin Manuel Miranda.
For tickets, visit the ACT website at actdalton.org or call (706) 278-4796. Performance dates are Aug. 2-3 and 8-10 at 8 p.m. and Aug. 4 at 2 p.m.