FV Theater Tackles Serious Past and Present Issues With “Waiting for Lefty”
by Tiffany Joiner and Ralph Schaffer
The Florissant Valley (FV) Theatre Program opened the spring semester with a production of the highly-acclaimed play, “Waiting for Lefty” directed by Professor Chris Stephens. The play takes place during a meeting of taxi drivers during the Great Depression and deals with workers’ rights. They have had enough of receiving the short end of the stick, and the only option that interests them is a strike.
The production is compiled of six different vignettes and flashbacks from the characters, seemingly unrelated. The only common factors they each share are their jobs, and they all have a story to tell. The play dives headfirst into burning topics such as fatal irresponsibility, collective bargaining and exploitation of the masses. Through the angst and frustration the characters face, burning questions keep the audience guessing.
Lefty is a union organizer who is scheduled to meet with the union workers to discuss life-changing options that each employee can settle on. The union’s corrupt leader Harry Fatt does everything he can to discourage it, and the mysterious absence of Lefty Costello doesn’t bode well for the future strikers. After hearing the heart-wrenching tales of the hard-working cab drivers, each story is dramatized before the audience before transitioning seemingly effortlessly back into the union meeting. Agate Keller (Tylan Mitchell) takes the stage and demands immediate action. When word comes that Lefty has been found “with a bullet in his head,” the union joins Keller in chanting “STRIKE, STRIKE, STRIKE!!!”
The playwright, Clifford Odets, originally set the play on a bare stage with hardly any props, a departure from a traditional theater production.
“It doesn’t all happen in a realistic place in time..I think that’s a really interesting thing to put on stage,” said Stephens. “...the audience is treated as though they are in the union hall and as if they’re fellow New York City cab drivers.”
Actors, mostly current FV students, come to the stage from the audience seats adding an interesting feel to the experience. “Waiting for Lefty” may have been written 83 years ago, but Stephens suggests that it still has a relevant message nearly a century later in Missouri as well as the United States.
The next play, “Constellations”, directed by Professor Dan Betzler, opens in April. For more information contact the Fischer Theater at 314-513-4488 or visit stlcc.edu/fv/theatre.
(photos courtesy of STLCC -FV Terry M. Fischer Theatre)