Composer Stephen Schwartz on Adapting Studs Terkel’s ‘Working’ for Goodman Play

'Working' by Studs Terkel

“These are real people in Working. We used Studs Terkel’s [1974] book, of course, but for this production, I also did some new interviews. I learned a lot about interviewing through my association with Studs, talking with him, watching him, and listening to his tapes. And reading and rereading the book. Mostly you just let people talk. People like to talk about themselves.

“It’s been 30 years since we premiered Working at the Goodman, and we’ve updated it, but the core remains the same. So many people are stuck in jobs for which they feel they aren’t recognized—their work isn’t recognized. The big question the show asks is how much of our work is about making a living and how much is about making our mark? It doesn’t matter if you’re working construction in 1974 or in an office in 2011. The same question always comes up. Most of the characters in Studs’s book are from Chicago, so it feels like we’re coming home with this production. The one major disappointment I have is that Studs isn’t here to see it.“

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The Grammy-winning composer Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Wicked) first adapted Studs Terkel’s Working for the Goodman Theatre in 1978. Three decades later, Schwartz has reworked the show, cutting professions that are no longer relevant (so long, newsboy) and adding ones that didn’t exist in the 1970s (hello, tech support).

GO Working runs through May 8th; for info, broadwayinchicago.com.

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