Singing About Working

To grasp exactly what radio host, author and oral historian Studs Terkel means to Chicago, and maybe the nation, Kansas Citians should start by thinking of Walt Bodine, our own champion listener. Now, imagine Bodine more curious about social history and the development of the arts and less about whether someone in Tonganoxie saw an albino squirrel. Then set the result loose by gathering the honest thoughts of real people on topics such as race or work in America. Terkel’s greatest achievement is, perhaps, his book Working, an anthology of interviews with Americans talking honestly about their jobs. The stories are hilarious and heartbreaking, sometimes weary but still optimistic. Paging through them is like eavesdropping on the nation’s break room. In the late ’70s, composer Stephen Schwartz, James Taylor and others spun the shoptalk into show tunes and lugged Working to Broadway. There, the show about working stiffs stiffed, but the high-quality songs and engaging subject matter have earned the show a long and prosperous retirement. Tonight at 8, Rockhurst University’s theater department mounts Working at the Mabee Theater in Sedgwick Hall (1100 Rockhurst Road, 816-501-4828).

Nov. 8-11, 2007