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Balancing Act portrays real life in Grinnell

College students and community members perform together. Photo by Shadman Asif.

“Balancing Acts,” a MAP-based play written about working in Grinnell, hits the Flanagan Theatre this weekend. The play, or “evening of storytelling,” as Director Lesley Delmenico, Theatre described it, will leave audiences with a better understanding of Grinnell and its community. “Balancing Acts,” as the title suggests, is about balancing work and life for those employed in the Grinnell workforce after the financial crises.

The production has been a year-long project. The six students, Louisa Silverman ’15, Tye Smith ’15, Anna Banker ’15, Kate Whitman ’14, Grace Tipps ’14 and Caitlin Beckwith-Ferguson ’14 interviewed 77 members of the community who work in places such as factories, bars and the high school, and asked them various questions about working and living in Grinnell. Once students finished their interviews, they transcribed the text and structured it to create the dialogue.

“The hardest part was structuring it so that people who are not talking to each other have their ideas and their feelings placed into dialogue with other people,” Delmenico said.

Yet the finished structure works well—although the script was taken verbatim from what the interviewees said, the text comes together well to create conversations, such as one between two female characters who sit discussing the hardships of being women in the workforce.

The ages of cast members span a wide range, including more than five Grinnell alumni, but the cast developed their own community as they began rehearsing.

“It wasn’t an active process to meet people, that’s just a by-product of being in a play with other people,” said Grinnell alum and Communications Editorial Fellow Luke Saunders ’12, who is a cast member.

The cast also includes non-College Grinnell community members, such as Mike McKenna, an employee at Hyvee who has been participating in community theatre for the past 15 years.

“I’ve met more kids from the College in the past five weeks than I have in the past 50 years I’ve been here,” McKenna said.

Part of the rehearsal process for each cast member was developing and working with their multiple roles. Saunders, who plays both a surgeon and a painter, experimented with his characters until he could find the wants and needs of each. McKenna found switching between his character as a fireman and a farmer to be fun.

“They both have the same core, they both have a sense of responsibility, but they both do very different things” McKenna said.

The goal of this project is to help College students and members of the community understand one another. It is a part of a larger project called the Too Big To Fail Project. Developed in the Theatre department at Drew University, the project has been implemented at Wayne State University, Drake University and the University of San Francisco. The underlying goal of the project is to give audience members a sense of what work means to community members and how they have dealt with the financial crisis. 77 people were asked to be interviewed and 77 agreed.

Upon remembering how one local volunteered, Delmenico recalled discussing the MAP with a student at Saints Rest and the student expressed interest in covering the issue of sexualized labor. “A lady at the next table leaned over and said, ‘I’m sorry, I couldn’t help but hear you, but I used to be a stripper and so were a lot of my friends. Would you like to interview us?’”

The show is interesting, informative and entertaining, and it is bound to shed light on ‘that little town in the middle of the cornfields’ and the people who work in it.

The performances will take place in Flanagan Theatre tonight and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

College students and community members perform  together. Photo by Shadman Asif.
College students and community members perform together. Photo by Shadman Asif.
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