New York, NY – Audiences, after experiencing the Working Theater’s production of “Songs About Trains” shouldn’t be too surprised if they suddenly feel moved to support their local Starbucks baristas’ unionization drive or get behind Amazon workers organizing on Staten Island or Bessemer, Alabama — that kind of stuff has been happening throughout the theater company’s triumphant 37th season.
“The struggle that we’re talking about is not an arbitrary thing — it’s happening right now,” Working Theater Marketing and Media Manager Coryn Carson tells LaborPress. “It’s added to a very relevant, real-time response from people and what they can do [to support workers].”
“Songs About Trains” — the Working Theater’s current production running through April 23, at the New Ohio Theater in Greenwich Village — reaches all the way back to founding of the nation’s rail system and the working men and women who birth it into reality to underscore labor’s ongoing role in the formation of American culture.
The multi-ethnic cast’s musical odyssey stretches all the way from the mid-1800s — up to the 21st century. It’s a richly diverse mix of music and deeply personal letters, expressing decades of courage, hope and heartbreak.
Working Theater Producing Artistic Director Laura Carbonell Monarque calls the theatrical concert both “a celebration of music that reminds us of the cost of the work that was done” and “what it means to be a working person right now.”
The Working Theater is the only not-for-profit off-Broadway theater company exclusively dedicated to “creating and producing new American plays for, about, and with working people.” On May 23, the Working Theater presents the Bridge Awards and Benefit honoring CWA 1180 President Gloria Middleton and TWU International President John Samuelsen at the Water Club on East 30th Street.
During pandemic lockdown, the Working Theater’s open mic nights provided essential workers with a vital platform to voice their struggles confronting the horrors of Covid-19 head on.
“Last February’s in particular was such a moving release of all the stuff that had been built up through the past year,” Carbonell Monarque says.
Still other essential workers got an opportunity through the Working Theater to share their pandemic experiences in poetry and short prose. Helping workers cultivate and develop their own forms of artistic expression has long been a central part of the Working Theater’s mission. Learning courses through the company’s TheaterWorks! program have helped many trade unionists become playwrights and performers in their own right.
The Mark Pleasant Commission Fund, honoring the company’s late artistic director, supports the development of new plays by working people. Public readings are slated for June.
Reflecting on the Working Theater’s 37th season of programming, Carson says it’s been especially gratifying presenting work “showing the power that people have in a group.”
Radical Evolution’s “Songs About Trains A Celebration of Labor Through Folk Music” is playing now through April 23, at the New Ohio Theater, located at 154 Christopher Street. The show is directed by Rebecca Martínez and Taylor Reynolds. Both In-person and digital streaming tickets are available on a sliding scale. Click here to purchase.