Previewing the Consumables

Written by a Student Contributor   // March 24, 2014   // 0 Comments


Nick Schweitzer

CCBC Essex

An inspiring vision on America’s working class, “The Consumables” demonstrates the impactful struggle to survive in the present day job market through movement and music.

Inspired by the novel “The Working Poor” by David K. Shipler, Director Julie Lewis and crew are creating this piece of devised theatre, meaning collaborative creation, to form an abstract view of the mundane.  “There isn’t one overarching storyline,” says Director Julie Lewis. “But (the play) is more of a collection of vignettes taken from real experiences.”

Tasked with creating a brand new play, the cast and crew journeyed out to interview real members of the working poor to incorporate their experiences into the framework of the piece. By allocating part of the creative process Julie Lewis has empowered her cast by having them conduct interviews to gain real world experience and deepen their connection to the process.

After the quotes were collected the cast started to workshop these ideas and incorporated the quotes into the structure of the play. The collective collaboration allows every voice of the cast to be heard in the creative process. Using samples from “The Working Poor” and the myriad of interviews they collected, the cast is melding many different experiences to form an influential piece of theatre that leaves the audience with a current view of the downtrodden working class.

Displaying the life and times of lower income individuals can be a rather prosaic pursuit, yet this cast seems ready for the task.  Cast Member Carol Haupt states, “we are trying to exaggerate the mundane with our physical movements allowing our bodies to demonstrate the constant struggle.”

Retail workers, fast food employees, farmers and many other professions are on display as each segment of the work describes life from a different perspective.

Although there is no true lead actor of the play, the main driving force of this production is the pianist, Anthony Bianco.  He is the conductor of movement throughout the play.  Creating most of the music by himself, Bianco feeds off the actors’ intensity creating a brilliant dynamic within the production. As a character within the play Bianco does not shift the focus from the ensemble, but enhances their strife and heartbreak tenfold.  These are real issues that individuals cope with constantly while the music acts as a conduit to demonstrate the shackles of the working class.

Looking to devise a different way to interpret consumer culture this cast and crew is diverging from a standard play of typical dialogue to an organic movement based piece.  Yes, there will be dialogue but the movement and the real life stories are meant to drain the actors as well as the audience, both emotionally and physically.  “The energy of the show is phenomenal,” says cast member Tony Hilderbrand.  Since the subject matter is rather Kafkaesque the energy is truly important to accentuate what the working poor experiences on a daily basis.

Most of the play will be a movement-based, avant-garde cabaret followed by a question and answer session with the audience.  “We really would love to get the audience involved as much as possible during this play,” says Director Julie Lewis. “That is rather important for us.”  The question and answer section will be an open discussion focusing on the possibilities of fixing these problems and what steps the community could start taking?

Innovating, thought provoking, and imaginative “The Consumables” will be a must see when it opens at the Theatre on the Essex campus of CCBC.  Tickets are $8 for general admission, $5 for senior citizens, CCBC faculty, staff and alumni.  Current students get in free with their student I.D.  Showtimes include April 3rd, 4th and 5th at 8 pm, April 7th at 10 am and the final showing occurs April 8th at 1pm.  For ticket information contact the CCBC box office.

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