In UCF theater work, every role has a place in the spotlight
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It’s a question we’re asked from an early age, entrenching the idea that a person’s profession defines who they are. But for many people, our relationship to “what we do” is much more complicated.
The UCF Theater production of Work explores the meaning we find in our jobs through the perspectives of waitresses, janitors, firefighters, teachers, laborers and more, giving a voice to the often overlooked workers who make up American society. At UCF, Work opens Thursday, October 20 at the Main Stage Theater at 7:30 p.m. and runs through October 30.
Written by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso, Work made its Broadway debut in 1977 as an adaptation of Studs Terkel’s 1974 book of interviews with laborers across the country. In 2012, the production was adapted to include new characters and songs representing the modern workforce.
“We were amazed throughout the rehearsal process at how the stories recorded in 1977 and 2012 still resonate today,” said director Earl Weaver, a UCF associate professor who will soon be retiring from the faculty. ‘university. “I hope people come away with a new appreciation and respect for what workers do in all types of work. We want audiences to find compassion and empathy in experiencing what our characters are going through and to take those feelings and share them with everyone they meet.
Because the series centers around the professions most people have or interact with on a daily basis, many cast members feel a personal connection to the characters they play. Johnny Flannagan, a musical theater student at the BFA, remembers his father as he performs the songs and monologues of Mike Dillard, a steelworker, and Tom Patrick, a former police officer turned firefighter.
“When I go into a character, I tend to think of my dad, because he was also a physical worker and an ex-cop. He worked very many hours a week. He came home, dined , slept, woke up and started again,” says Flannagan “Every audience and every cast member can relate to the show because it’s about them.”
The inclusive message of Work is reflected in its staging, which features each of the more than 30 student designers and actors working together to produce the show, even those working behind the scenes.
“Audiences will get a behind-the-scenes perspective when they arrive at the theater — they’ll be able to see some of the workings of preparing for the performance,” says Weaver.
Kaitlyn Gamory, a junior theater technology and design student, is a sound designer for Work. Her work on the production made her realize that there are no small roles – in theater or in life.
“It’s the first production I’ve heard of that showcases all the actors in this way,” Gamory says. “I think it’s a way of acknowledging that even though we’re watching a show about work, there are still people working to make it happen. As someone who works offstage, I think it’s It’s cool that we are recognized in this way in front of the public.
The production students, as well as Weaver, describe the rehearsal atmosphere as particularly personal and meaningful.
“Everyone is appreciated, seen and heard in this entire production,” says Ella Zarrilli, a freshman musical theater student who plays three different ensemble roles in the show. “Seeing everyone be so passionate about what they do and invest in it and seeing that result come to fruition has been such a rewarding experience.”
Throughout the show, the UCF Theater will partner with Knights Pantry to include donation areas in the theater to support students who were impacted by Hurricane Ian.
Tickets are $25 for general admission and $10 for students with ID from any school. The full show program and registrations are available here.
Celebrating Director Earl Weaver’s Latest Production at UCF
When asked what he wanted to do when he was older, the young Weaver never had a doubt: he would teach. For the past 20 years of his UCF career, that’s exactly what he’s done.
Weaver has worked as a tenured associate professor, musical theater program coordinator, advisor, and mentor to generations of students at the School of Performing Arts. Work is the 30e, and finally, the production that Weaver will direct at UCF. He plans to retire in May 2023, after which he will return to the professional world as a performer, director and choreographer.
“I love being in the classroom and getting students to explore, play, discover and develop their own sensibility as artists,” says Weaver. “That has never changed in my 20 years here. That’s what makes coming to work every day a joy for me. I never get up in the morning and I’m afraid to come to work. And it will be the part that will be hard to leave, but that also comes with retirement.
Weaver says when he first interviewed for his position at UCF in 2003, he was inspired by the university’s commitment to its students and craftsmanship. Since then, UCF’s theater programs have become internationally recognized, with students auditioning from around the world.
“We’re in a pretty good place here at UCF – the world knows us, which wasn’t the case when I got here. People said, ‘What is UCF?’ says Weaver. “We’ve worked very hard over the past 20 years to make sure no one says that anymore.”
When it came to selecting Work as the last production he will direct at UCF, Weaver believes the show provides students with opportunities in a variety of acting and designing roles. Having also led Work at UCF in 2004, he saw the production of the updated 2012 version of the show as a chance to show how the workforce has evolved since 1977, including breakthroughs in gender stereotypes and technology.
“When I found the new release, I thought, this is the show we need to do. This is timely, this is topical. This is going to serve our students educationally,” says Weaver “And I think it will be an interesting experience for viewers who come in who may not know anything about the show.”
After inspiring young theater professionals over the past two decades, Weaver wants to empower the next generation of students to change the world through their craft, whether they’re an actor, theater technician, or recording artist. any discipline.
“I tell my students all the time – if you don’t learn anything else from me, I want you to come away knowing how to be a good human being, how to treat people with respect, how to open your eyes and ears and listen and see and understand the world around you. And then figure out how you can improve it,” Weaver says. “Change the world with your point of view, change the world with your talent, with your art, because that’s what arts and humanities do. We affect the human mind on many different levels.