High school students engage with cast of Sweat
High school students engage with cast of Sweat - MHT hosts talkback with local high school students
January 18, 2019
Seventy-four students from Livingston Central High School and twenty students from Paducah Tilghman High School attended a matinee performance of Sweat at Market House Theatre on Friday morning. Sweat opened at MHT on Thursday evening, with a school matinee Friday morning and evening performances Friday and Saturday evenings with 2:30 matinees on Sundays.
After the show, the lights came up, the cast pulled out stools, and the students were invited to ask questions. Michael Cochran, director, facilitated the discussion between the students and cast about the themes that were presented during the show. As part of the discussions, cast members got to share their own life experiences and why they chose to perform in Sweat.
Latino actor Jorge Machaen points out the cultural and racial struggles that are present not only in Sweat, but also with young people as they pursue careers. He says, “It’s a cultural wall, of all things, that prevents us from exploring acting, stand-up, even music. Even though they [the students] love to watch all those things on TV.” Sweat reaches into the heart of racial issues in the working class and brings them right onto the stage.
When discussing how the cast members get into character, one student from Livingston Central noted, “They put so much emotion into their characters that made it so believable...” Cast member Paris Jones said, “When I put on these clothes, I’m Cynthia.” Cast member Jalen Harris told a story about how he, having a natural effervescent personality, would sit in his room with the lights off and force himself to be more emotive so he could better portray his character, Chris who deals with family issues and lack of support from his father as he wants to go to college and become a teacher rather than work at the factory. Sweat is written as a series of tales and flashbacks going back and forth between the start of the job crisis in 2000 and the plant's closing in 2008. Knowing that this is a modern play, but still set over 10 years ago, another Livingston student asked the cast the thoughtful question, "Going down the paths they were going, where do you think your characters would be in 2019?"
Other questions to the actors centered around how they felt about delivering the prejudice comments and swearing when on stage when they wouldn’t normally say those things in real life. Cast members Stacy Walker and Jason Hamilton both noted that it was hard to get comfortable saying those things to each other but reminded the students that you aren’t yourself on the stage – you’re the character in the story.
The cast of Sweat had a positive reaction to seeing so many young people so attentive and inquisitive of a play like this. Cast member Jason Hamilton says, “The entire reason I have grown as an artist at all is because I had the opportunities to partake in many art forms, which gave me the chance to find what I love. Knowing today’s young crowd may include even just one person that falls in love with theatre after the performance, that means everything.” Stacy Walker says, "Having an audience of students meant so much to me!! I want students to realize that their future employment may be very different than that of their parents. I believe Sweat can create dialogue not only about work related issues but other important issues such as relationships with those of a different race and the meaning of true friendship." A freshman at WKCTC, Jalen Harris says, “Seeing the high schools students at the show Friday morning was very important to me because I feel like younger people need those glimpses into an environment that others shrug off and sweep under the rug. It gives them the opportunity to challenge themselves introspectively, being a better person and practicing good moral; while still entertaining them.”
A note from the director, Michael Cochran, about why he chose to run Sweat at Market House Theatre, “The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article showing how rural communities and small towns that have relied on manufacturing are still in crisis even after the recession has ended. With GM’s November announcement of plant closings, the play Sweat is as timely as ever. As soon as I read this play, I knew we had to do it. It’s a snapshot of what is happening across the country: good-paying jobs, benefits, and pensions are being challenged, leaving behind devastation from substance abuse, anger, and the collapse of the American working class.”
Filled with warm humor and tremendous heart, Sweat brings us into the heart of the working-class who are living with the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs in America and are experiencing first-hand the social, racial, and economic hardships that follow. Set in Reading, Pennsylvania in a local bar, Sweat focuses on two closely knit families who have a long history with the Olstead plant and a group of friends who have spent their lives sharing drinks, secrets, and laughs while working together on the factory floor. When the machinery gets moved to Mexico overnight, the workers at the plant go on strike and immigrant replacement workers are brought in at lower wages. Long-standing friendships are torn apart, sparking violence that escalates until the riveting end of the play where unintended consequences happen.
With down-to-earth characters and relatable issues, Sweat goes back and forth in time from the start of the crisis in year 2000 to the plant’s closing in 2008, exploring the heartbreaking realization that a life’s worth of work may not mean as much as it should.
Sweat contains a significant amount of very strong language from the factory characters and brief violence and is not appropriate for children. Parental guidance is strongly suggested.
Sweat opened Thursday, January 17th and runs through Sunday, January 27th.
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening performances begin at 7:30 PM. Sunday matinees begin at 2:30 PM. An additional matinee will be on Saturday, January 26th at 2:30 PM.
Tickets range in price from $17 - $25 for adults and $14 - $16 for students. Union workers may present their union cards at time of purchase to receive a discounted $15 ticket. To purchase, call the Box Office at 270.444.6828 or go online at http://markethousetheatre.org/shows/sweat