Minimum wage is a joke
December 4, 2003
Do you like to laugh at poor people – especially if you’re poor?Do you like to squirm and feel delightfully uncomfortable?And, can you relate to anecdotal situations emphasizing economic hardship?Curious Theatre Company’s production of “Nickel & Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America” will be performed at the Vilar Center for the Arts in Beaver Creek Sunday and Monday at 7:30 p.m.The play is based on the New York Times Best Seller by Barbara Ehrenreich. It plays as a study that exposes the underbelly of American capitalism, as seen through the eyes of the working poor.”We’re excited to bring this show to the resort communities where the disparity between the super rich and the local and seasonal workers is so huge,” said Chip Walton, director of the show as well as the artistic director of Curious Theatre Company. “The book depicts urban situations and there’s a section on Key West (Fla.), which should be fairly relevant.”Ehrenreich spent a year working undercover as a waitress, maid, nursing home assistant and Wal-Mart sales clerk to see if she could actually make ends meet on minimum wage.Joan Holden, principal playwright for the San Francisco Mime Troupe for over 30 years, adapted the book to script.Holden met with Ehrenreich after agreeing to do the adaptation, and they found that they’d attended Reed College in Oregon at the same time.”Joan and I have a history of personal and artistic collaboration,” said Walton, who has done work with the San Francisco Mime Troupe. “There’s obviously no way to put an entire book on the stage, especially considering the journalistic style Ehrenreich used in her book. So, Joan had a challenge, and her script is smart and prudent.Curious Theatre Company’s production of the show is the sixth in the country, which is remarkable considering that it is a mid-size theatre group among two others in Denver.And, the production went well in Denver, nearly selling out an entire eight-week run.”The show’s style is different. The central character develops a relationship with the audience,” said Walton. “And, then there’s a section called “breakout,’ where the actors come out of their characters for a moment.”The play uses six actors for 66 characters, and one of the actors plays one character for the entirety. So, five actors play 65 roles.The play spans across the entire country.”We had a tremendous response in Breckenridge, where there seemed to be more members of the working class at the show than upper class,” said Walton. “The show was still an eye-opening experience for me, and I consider myself fairly liberal.”For all of us in the middle and upper classes, our lives are subsidized because someone along the way is working for minimum wage. And, most times, those people are invisible to many of us, but this play makes them visible.”The theatre company – its work has been billed as “entertainment with intellect” – always looks for plays with political and cultural cores to them.”We like our plays to cause people to think differently about something than they did before,” said Walton. “We hope to make our tour through the mountain-resort communities an annual event.””Nickel & Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America” plays at the Vilar Center Sunday and Monday at 7:30 p.m. Monday will be Curious Theatre Company’s final production of the show.Andrew Harley can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or phone at 949-0555, ext. 610.