Western Reserve Academy premieres Working

Western Reserve Academy premieres Working

Western Reserve Academy's spring musical "Working" will take the Knight Fine Arts Center stage for two live performances on Friday and Saturday, May 14-15, at 8 p.m. Limited seating is available. A video recording of the performance will be available at a later date. Stay tuned!

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This week, Western Reserve Academy will debut its first live performance of the year — "Working" the musical! With a cast of 20 students, including two Piofar performers, this show promises to be a cheery return to some Reserve theater normality and a standout performance from our talented Pioneers.

Based on Studs Terkel's book of interviews with American workers, Stephen Schwartz's "Working" is a portrait and celebration of people from all walks of life, shining a spotlight on their hopes and dreams, their worries and their joys. We meet a full cast of characters — a teacher, a journalist, a phone operator, a waitress, a mason, to name a few — and are given a glimpse into the seemingly humdrum and everyday situations that reveal deeper truths about the human experience and our relationships with the work we choose to do.

Our student-performers may not have the years and experiences of their characters, but they have sunk their teeth into these performances and found ways to connect to the material, under the guidance of Director Midge Karam.

"One of the things I asked them on their audition sheets was, what do you want to be when you grow up?" she shared. "That came up again in rehearsal with one of the full ensemble songs, 'If I Could've Been.' We did an around-the-cast meeting, and I just had them run through their answers — no holds barred, you don't have to worry about qualifications, salaries, just what do you want to be when you grow up?"

It was a fun exercise, and answers varied from astronaut (specifically, the first woman on Mars) to genetic researcher (with the goal of developing the cure for COVID-19).

"We went back and did the number, and it just sort of clicked," she explained. "They were making immediate connections to those feelings in the song, saying 'Oh, I see now, my character has all of these other aspirations and dreams too, the same way I do.' We've done a lot of talking about these feelings and identity and who you are."

"Working" will have a raw stage with only a few props, platforms and projected scenery, and with limited dialogue and a show filled with mainly monologues and musical numbers, our performers are in the deep end, starting their story with little build up and commanding attention the second they walk onto the stage.

"There's something really kind of authentic about sets and shows like this," said Karam. "It allows the kids to do less, which is something we're always trying to get young actors to do — to get them to be a little more ordinary which actually strengthens their acting ability. Since there's less for them to do, there's more for them to imbue, which is really interesting and cool to see."

Visual projection is a major player in the show, which is how our Piofars will perform on the stage from far away. They have filmed their performances, which will appear on the projected screen, at times interacting with other cast members on the live stage. Projection also helps add a personal and poignant touch to some of the numbers, such as "Fathers and Sons." During the song, there are plans for a special projection of childhood photos of the male cast members and their dads — a surefire tug on the heartstrings!

Rehearsals began just before spring break, so it's been a full sprint to the finish line, and Karam is immensely proud of all of the work that has gone into making this an exceptional show. The cast has been mindful of and patient with COVID-19 protocols, rehearsing in Hayden with windows and doors fully open for maximum air circulation, and rarely with a full cast. They are thrilled to be performing a live show, eager to take stage and perform for a full and captivated audience.

Break a leg, Pioneers!

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CAST: Griffin Arnold '22, Ethan Bauck '22, Aaron Chen '23, Lauren Dempsey '21, Phoebe Dix '23, Chelsea Dodson '21, Carter Frato-Sweeney '22, David Gentile '21, Kaitlyn Golden '23, Daniel Li '22, Lucy Li '23, Sarah London '22, Isa Mester '22, Nora Namiotka '23, Alexandra Newman '24, Rachel Ott '23, Jillian Reef '21, Mahan Sahu '21, Aja Topps-Harjo '21 and Broden Windsor '22.

BAND: Hunter Amos '21, Cat Brannon '21, Logan Nott '22 and George Wang '21.

CREW: Landon Allis '23 (Stage Manager), Teliyah Davis '22, Danny Hoffman '22 and Peyton Oliver '22.