Throughout the fall numerous artists and organizations in Saginaw are partnering with the Public Theatre Mobile Unit National, which is based out of New York City, for several arts, cultural, and community outreach events happening throughout Saginaw over the next 4-months that are all based upon the theme of ‘Work’.
The genesis for these events stemmed out of the Public Theatre Mobile Unit’s Sweat project. According to David Rzeszutek, Associate Professor of Theatre at Saginaw Valley State University, the project originated out of Joe Papp’s Public Theatre out of Manhattan, which stages a Mobile Unit to go to outstate New York communities in order to expose smaller communities to artistic projects they might not normally be able to access.
“They obtained multiple grants to develop a Mobile Unit National that targets 18 midwestern cities, and Saginaw was one of the cities selected,” explains Rzeszutek. “The cornerstone event of this project will be a performance of Lynne Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play SWEAT and post-show discussion by the NYC Public Theater’s Mobile Unit, which will take place at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 123 N. Michigan, on October 6th from 7-10 PM and is free to the public.”
SWEAT tells the story of a group of friends who have spent their lives sharing drinks, secrets, and laughs while working together on a factory floor. But when layoffs and picket lines begin to chip away at their trust, the friends find themselves pitted against each other in the hard fight to stay afloat.
“This play takes place in Reading, Pennsylvania at the time one the main steel mills is closing, so the Mobile Unit wanted to find similar medium size cities to stage this important work,” continues David. “They asked that we do something around this production to start conversations within the community, so we developed several story circles designed to get people that would not normally associate with one another to talk together.”
“Consequently, we developed The Work Project: Artwork About Work’ that began with a short film that was hosted by Pit & Balcony Community Theatre on September 25th that was about retired GM workers from the Saginaw area.”
“With the NYC Public Theatre’s production of SWEAT: the Play on October 6th, the Director of the troupes’ production, Kate Whoriskey, will be revamping this touring performance with some of the actors that were in the Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway performance, which is very exciting,” he adds.
According to Pit & Balcony’s Amy Spadafore, “Sweat won the Pulitzer last year and the NYC Public Theatre is an Off-Broadway theatre in New York that is also the theatre that produced the musical play Hamilton, which is where that musical got its start. A lot of their mission is ‘theatre for the people, by the people’ and they use this mobile unit to engage local communities around New York. This is a pilot program for the national program and the fact they’re coming to communities that normally do not have this type of entertainment is exciting. They aren’t showing this in Detroit. They wanted to come to Saginaw because they are all about bringing art to people that didn’t know they were interested in it, or are seldom exposed to it.”
“The Sweat Mobile National Tour is our most dramatic attempt to break out of our New York bubble and speak to those who the non-profit theater has largely ignored: the rural communities of the upper Midwest,” said Artistic Director Oskar Eustis. “If the culture belongs to everyone, it belongs to the citizens of Kenosha, Erie, and Saginaw as much as it belongs to Manhattan. We are thrilled to be bringing Lynn Nottage’s brilliant Pulitzer Prize-winning play across America.”
“Sweat tells the story of Reading, Pennsylvania, but it could be any post-industrial city across the landscape,” said playwright Lynn Nottage. “One of the beautiful things about what we’re trying to do with the Mobile Unit National Tour is to link narratives and bring people not just in the communities into dialogue, but people across communities into dialogue and figure out how can we strategize and shift the national conversation,” reflects playwright Lynn Nottage.
Other community events assembled by the local team involved with The Work Project include Blood, Sweat & Gears, a photography exhibit by Saginaw artist Nyesha Clark. This compelling exhibit will be on display at the Saginaw Warehouse Artist Guild, 1840 N. Michigan and open to the public on September 26th from 4-7 pm, with an Artist’s Reception on September 28 from 5:30-8:00 PM.
Artist Nyesha Clark is a Saginaw native, multi-disciplined artist and activist. She is currently a senior at Saginaw Valley State University and pursuing a BFA with a concentration in photography. She works with local non-profit and social justice organizations such The Ezekiel Project, EJAM, YWCA racial justice team, Mothering Justice and Saginaw USDAC Community Arts Outpost.
This is her third showcase this year with more to come soon. Blood, Sweat, and Gears is an exhibit that showcases the contrasting timeline of various automotive and parts plants around Saginaw, MI, starting from its inception to present day conditions.
This series partly focuses on the life and livelihood of the Saginaw community before and after said establishments were built. Showing the promising past and the bleak reality of the present day when these plants were shut down. While some photos are meant to evoke emotion and dialogue, others are meant to highlight the juxtaposition of lines, color, form and negative space.
Another Work Project event happening in November will be the ‘Get To Work’ Reading & Poetry Slam, which is an offshoot of the Get Work! Creative Writing Contest, sponsored by the Saginaw & Bay Area Community Writing Centers. Three $100 cash prizes will be awarded and winners may be published in the community literary arts journal Still Life.
The ‘Get To Work’ Reading & Poetry Slam will consist of readings of the contest winners and poetry slam and be held at Counter Culture, 620 Gratiot in Saginaw on November 15th from 7-10 pm.
Concludes David, “All of these events we’ve created are tied together with the ‘Work Project’ serving as our overall canvas. It’s wonderful to see people from all over the community collaborating and so far these events are doing what we hoped they would in terms of creating dialogue and exposing different elements of our community to common threads that bond us all together.”
16th November, 2023