The WORK PROJECT • Artwork About Work

NYC Public Theatre Mobile Unit Stages Pulitzer Prize-Winning Play ‘Sweat’ at St. John’s Episcopal Church On October 6th with Three Other Events Through November

    icon Sep 26, 2018
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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  Guild1840  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.”




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