Theatre dept receives grant, Working resumes

After about four months of stressing about how they would pay for “Working: the Musical” streaming fourth quarter, the Oak Park and River Forest Alumni Association swooped in with a $9,000 donation to the theater department. This covers the cost for the video editing and audio engineering.

Since October the theater department has been worrying about how they will pull it off. “When we found out I literally cried. Tears of joy, so much weight was just lifted off my shoulders,” said Michelle Bayer, one of the OPRF theater directors.
Bayer said, “We’re not fund raising the same amount we were. We’re not having ticket sales like we normally would because people are (watching) on their computers now.” Hence the new need for funding services like editing; before the pandemic, the play would have been performed live.

Bayer, along with fellow OPRF directors Connor Cornelius-Burke and Meredith Mcquire, knew it would be challenging to come up with the money but they were still determined to have the show go on. “So many things had been taken away from them (students), with being in a pandemic. That was one thing that we didn’t want to go away. All the theatre directors and technicians were all about making our students whole this year,” says Bayer.

The students knew they might not have the money for the play, but “I don’t think they realized just how nervous the adults were,” says Bayer, until they saw how excited they were about the donation. On that Friday, Bayer told her students “I’m so happy that the Alumni Association has valued what we do and what you do and is going to support this show.”

“I was so grateful… The donation has allowed us all to be provided with the opportunity I truly did not think I would have again before graduating,” said OPRF senior Helena Godellas, a senior at OPRF who will be playing a female student in the show.

The Alumni Association knows that students have had a lot of opportunities taken away from them the past year. John Costopoulos, the Association’s Faculty Liaison and OPRF science teacher said “So we (the Alumni Association) had been brainstorming ‘what can we do to help students right now?’ All of us on the alumni have greatly appreciated the theatre program at OPRF and we knew that this production of ‘Working’ could be phenomenal, especially with Michelle Bayer at the helm. We really wanted to make sure that it happened. We didn’t want it to be another casualty of the pandemic.”

They looked at the cost of editing and it came to about $9,000 so they decided to help. “It was going to be very expensive and wouldn’t happen without funding so we’re like ‘You know what? This is such a great thing, we’re gonna support it fully and give them the $9,000 they need’. So that’s what we did,” says Costopoulos.

The book “Working” written by Studs Turkel in 1974 was written about Chicago workers and their lives. It was then made into a play in 1977, and reimagined in 2012 to include more current workers like delivery drivers or a nanny who’s an immigrant. This play is already very interesting; it’s about “real stories about real people in their real words,” says Bayer.

Make sure to check out “Working” the play on April 16, 17, 23, and 24. It will be streamed on (search Oak Park) and more information will be on the schools website.