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Featured (left to right): Jordan Crawford, Levy Cabatingan, Jason Gaarder, Joshua Snyder (kneeling, forward), Erin Kampen. (Photo by Christine Morse)

University Communications

MSU theatre arts presents 'Waiting for Lefty'

Minot State University’s theatre arts program presents Clifford Odets’ “Waiting for Lefty” Feb. 18-22 in Aleshire Theater at 7:30 p.m.

Can one man make a difference? What about a million?  The profound political and social messages of equality, fairness and justice in Odet’s ‘Waiting for Lefty” are just as relevant today as they were when they were in 1935.

In “Waiting for Lefty,” directed by Kevin Neuharth, MSU communication arts associate professor, a 1934 New York taxi union strike serves as the backdrop to several vignettes that build upon a planning meeting to strike for a living wage. When Lefty Costello, the committee and pro-strike faction leader, goes missing, it becomes the duty and responsibility of union members to step up and hold their officials accountable for the change that is so desperately needed. When everyone’s future hangs in the balance and lives are put on the line, will the radical approach become the only option?

Odet’s “Waiting for Lefting” is a poignant glimpse into the 1930s that puts the plight of the nations’ unions and underprivileged in the spotlight. Set in 1934, at the heart of the Great Depression, the era was marked by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, a political plan of relief for the unemployed, recovery of the economy and reformation of finance and transportation industries. It was also the year the Dustbowl storms devastated the Midwest and tales of Bonnie and Clyde gripped the nation. Times were tough for many, and with little or nothing more to lose, the “little guys” began to stand up against “the man” for what is right and just.

“It is truly one of the most important plays of the American Depression era,” Neuharth said. “It is vital to be passionate about what you stand for. Everyone has the right to stand up for what they believe in. In fact, more than a right, they have a duty.”

Support for the strike is high among the union members, who balk and rebuke the claims and arguments of the arrogant and corrupt union leader, Harry Fatt (Daniel Johnson), who pulls out all the stops to discourage them from walking out. As they all anxiously wait for their leader, Lefty, a series of flashbacks reveal the path taken by each of the committee members to find themselves at the precipice of the impending strike. Joe (Joshua Snyder) has his priorities sorted out by his wife Edna (Erin Kampen); Mr. Phillips, a young actor (Jason Gaarder), is embraced as comrade by a casting director’s secretary (Krys Zorbaugh); a young medical intern (Emily Taylor) is reminded of her place in society by her boss (Charles Wollschlager); the hearts of two young lovers, Sid and Florie (Jordan Crawford and Elizabeth Ryan), are torn apart by the uncertainty of Sid’s life as a hack and Keller, (Cole Anderson), can no longer remain silent.

“Waiting for Lefty” was first presented by the famous Group Theatre in New York and is considered to be one the greatest examples of agitprop theatre. Inspired by Communist ideology, Odets promotes collective action and unionization as a means to empower the working class. The play symbolized the era, acting as a beacon for many soon-to-be-famous playwrights who came under its influence.

For tickets, contact the Aleshire Theater box office at 858-3172. Ticket prices are $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and students under 18. MSU students, faculty and staff are free with current MSU ID. Reservations are encouraged.


Published: 02/18/14

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