Author: Clay Bonnyman Evans

Hands, hearts and minds

CU Boulder Theatre’s Working: A Musical will celebrate everyone involved with $2 million Roe Green Theatre renovation

It took a lot of hours, and a lot of hard work, to get the newly renamed and renovated Roe Green Theater at the University of Colorado Boulder ready for its official grand re-opening in November.

And what better way to recognize the people whose hands, hearts and minds brought the $2 million project to fruition than to stage Working, the classic, Tony Award-nominated musical based on the best-selling 1974 book by Studs Terkel that explores the meaning of work and the importance of the unsung worker in American life?

“We were looking for something that would celebrate the new theater space, and chose a musical to show off its new, improved acoustics,” says Bud Coleman, Roe Green Endowed Chair in Theatre in the Department of Theatre & Dance and Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs and Initiatives, who is directing the production. “And we chose Working to celebrate the people who made it happen.”

The musical, featuring lyrics and music by Stephen Schwartz and others, including musician James Taylor, was first staged in 1977. It was revised and updated in 2012, including the addition of two new songs by Hamilton writer Lin Manuel Miranda.

And in an unusual move, in 2018 the creators altered its licensing to allow directors to use interviews with actual local workers in place of some scripted worker monologues. With that in mind, Coleman has been interviewing local workers for the past several months.

“Schwartz wrote in one of his introductions that he didn’t want the show to get dated and sit on the shelf,” he says. “This is one way to keep it alive and fresh.”

Originally built in 1904, the space long known simply as the University Theatre has been renamed in honor of 1970 CU Theatre graduate Roe Green, whose 2021 gift made the project possible.

“We wanted this experience to be a love letter to Roe,” Coleman says.

In addition, the production will mark the first time a CU graduate will return to Boulder as the Roe Green Visiting Theatre Artist. Bailey Trierweiler (BFAThtr’18), founder of New York-based BT Sound Design, will serve as sound designer.

Through sound and light, the production will call out and celebrate the workers who contributed to the rebirth of the 119-year-old theater space, as well as the improvements they made.

“We have assembled a complete list of everyone who worked on the project, and will do a roll of their names,” Coleman says. “I think Studs Terkel would be happy to know that.”

The CU Boulder Department of Theatre & Dance presents “Working, A Musical” in the Roe Green Theatre from Nov. 3 to 12, 2023.