The smell of fresh-cut lumber and paint wafted through the air in the small theater at Bloomington Playwrights Project.
As people slowly filtered in to watch the musical “Working,” directed by Eric Anderson Jr., credits and thank-you’s flashed on a projection screen.
The first performance of the musical, presented by the Monroe County Civic Theater, kicked off three nights of performances on Thursday.
The theater was nearly filled.
Creating a casual atmosphere, actors and actresses milled around the stage — set up as a bar and restaurant — and chatted with each other. Neon Budweiser and Pabst Blue Ribbon signs hung from the ceiling.
Characters in the musical varied from housewives, mill workers and waitresses to elderly care workers, fast food workers and technical support.
“You couldn’t have a small character in this musical,” fifth year senior Ben Fraley said. “I’ve worked with the director before and I heard about auditions that way. I auditioned hoping I’d get a part and I ended up with five different characters.”
Though some were played by the same person, each character was different.
“We worked a lot on making each character genuine,” Fraley said. “If we played every character the same, I feel the musical would have lost some of its power.”
Zilia Estrada, a Ph.D. candidate in the department of folklore and ethnomusicology, played a mill worker.
Sheila Butler, board president of the Monroe County Civic Theater, participated in the musical by playing the housewife.
Freshman Kate-Lyn Edwards played three characters in “Working.” Acting as an office worker, a prostitute and a cleaning woman, Edwards expressed each character differently.
“How would you feel if you could make $500 dollars in 20 minutes?” Edwards asked the crowd when she was playing the role of the prostitute. “And I’m only in high school.”
“Working” is based on a book by Studs Terkel. The book is a collection of interviews he conducted with average American workers.
Both the book and the musical embrace the nature of the working men and women of America.
Playing the part of a fireman, Steve Scott used a New York accent and described his life as saving others’ lives.
“I used to be a cop,” Scott said to the audience. “I always wanted to be a fireman. You want to know why I switched to a fireman? Because I like people.”
Scott went on to tell a story of how he could “feel the hate” in himself when he was a cop. He told about nearly shooting someone.
“The firemen produce,” Scott said. “You see them save a baby from a fire. You see them give mouth-to-mouth. I get to say I helped put out a fire, I helped save a life. Shows I did something on this earth.”
Scott’s hand covered his face as he stared past the crowd. The crowd roared as Scott’s monologue ended.
“I really enjoyed this musical,” Bloomington resident Susan Harder said. “You can’t beat Bloomington when it comes to theater.”
The musical ended with the song, “Something to Point To,” by Craig Carnelia.
“We put this together really quickly,” Butler said. “Everybody buckled down and learned their parts. I think it turned out to be an amazing show.”