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Theatre Dept. press release   Date: 10/12/11 Bookmark and Share

Smith Theatre Teams with New Century for Stage Adaptation of Nickel and Dimed Oct. 20-22, 26-29

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—September is normally a slow month for New Century Theatre, the summer company in residence at Smith, which recently wrapped up its 21st season.

But this September, instead of closing up for the year, New Century Theatre (NCT) began another round of rehearsals for a co-production with the Smith theatre department, a collaboration on an adaptation of the Barbara Ehrenreich bestseller Nickel and Dimed.

Adapted by Joan Holden and directed by NCT Producing Director Sam Rush, the production features veteran NCT actors Sara Whitcomb and James Emery, who will perform with nine student performers.

About the book

Written from the perspective of the undercover journalist, Nickel and Dimed sets out to investigate the impact of the 1996 welfare reform on the “working poor” in the United States. The book reveals low-wage America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity—a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate strategies for survival.

One day author Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join millions of Americans who work for poverty-level wages, inspired in part by the welfare reform rhetoric, which promised that any job equals a better life. But how can anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 to $7 an hour?

To find out, Ehrenreich moved from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, taking the cheapest lodgings available and accepting work as a waitress, hotel maid, house cleaner, nursing-home aide, and Wal-Mart salesperson. She soon discovered that even the "lowliest" occupations require exhausting mental and physical efforts. And one job is not enough; you need at least two if you intend to live indoors.

About the play

Time Magazine calls the stage adaptation of Nickel and Dimed “a rare example of theater that tries to open people’s eyes to the way of life lived in the real world—and maybe even rouse them to action.” Like the book, the play uses humor to help portray with painful clarity the struggles of America’s working poor.

“The subject matter of this play couldn’t be more timely,” says Director Sam Rush. “The middle class is becoming less and less reflective of the way much of the real America is living. So many people are living paycheck to paycheck and have to work longer hours and multiple jobs just to make ends meet.Nickel and Dimed is a wonderful conversation about class issues in America.”

Performances of Nickel and Dimed will take place October 20 through 22 and 26 through 29, at 8 p.m. each night, in Theatre 14, Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets ($15 adults, $8 seniors/students with ID, $3 for Smith students with ID, $8 for school groups are available at the Smith Theatre Box Office (413-585-2787, or online at

On Wednesday, Oct. 26, bring a non-perishable food item and receive a ticket for $1. Items will be donated to the Northampton Survival Center.

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