Workers Turned Actors
Telling historical and contemporary stories to inform our daily fight for living wages, dignity and social justiceThe Workers Theater company focuses on economic justice and workers’ rights. The artists and performers are members of the movement and working St Louis. These workers-turned-actors collaborate and train for months each year to create a series of sketches that connect stories of struggle, past and present. Stories are shared in word and song, historical reenactments and tales of the ongoing struggle for workers rights, told by those most affected.
We have earned news coverage, reviews and artist interviews in St. Louis Public Radio, Labor Tribune, Two on the Aisle and more!
Pivoting in the Pandemic
In 2020, Workers’ Theater pivoted to virtual programming and established our Bread and Roses YouTube channel to continue engaging audiences and giving voice to issues of social justice. Our YouTube channel features individual performances and artistic demonstrations, thanks to support from the University City Commission for Access and Local Original Programming (CALOP).
We also offer a preview our next original play! Adapted from the novel by Fannie Cook, Mrs. Palmer’s Honey is a rich depiction of how race, class, and worker’s rights intersected during World War II in the historic Ville Neighborhood in St. Louis. The play is scheduled to open in 2021. But we bring you behind the scenes (virtually) for the “first reading” to watch it develop.
Jailbird, An Original Play
In November 2019, Bread and Roses presented the premiere of Jailbird, an original play based on a true story of Eugene V. Debs at Missouri History Museum. In 1920, Eugene Victor Debs ran a campaign for the US presidency- from a federal prison cell. He was imprisoned for his outspoken objection to the violence and chaos of WWI. Debs ended up receiving a million votes, and 100 years later, his revelations on our society, economy, prison system, and the nature of war, are strikingly relevant.
Jailbird played to capacity crowds and received excellent reviews.
Workers’ Opera 2018-2019
The Workers’ Theater project has ramps into high gear each season, expanding our audiences and impact. Throughout the year, at venues across the state, more than 2,000 people experienced the Workers’ Opera, starring our talented cast of actors and musicians.
Kathryn Bentley, Artistic Director, and Colin McLaughlin, musical director, channeled their creativity into sketches, songs, and poems, that successfully educated and activated audiences on key issues such as raising the minimum wage and cleaning up government.
Workers’ Theater group performed for two consecutive years at the Grand Center’s successful Theatre Crawl.
The Workers’ Theater group wowed audiences at venues large and small, from our House Party series to the Grand Center’s successful Theatre Crawl in July. Thanks to MOVE, the Missouri Organizing and Voter Engagement Collaborative, we took the show on the road to Columbia and Kansas City, Missouri.
Plan to catch this talented group in action! See Our Events Page
Right To Work Exposed — From the cast of A Workers’ Opera
Extremists and lobbyists doing the bidding of billionaires enacted harmful right-to-work laws in Kentucky and Missouri this year. They’re readying to push these policies on a national scale in Congress and other states across the country. Their plan is to drive down wages and undermine our collective ability to join in union.
This performance, presented in 2018 by creative team and cast of the Workers’ Theater, details the racist, harmful, and largely hidden history of Right To Work, and speaks against the effects it has on workers and their families.
“Then and Now Again” — A Workers’ Opera
This “workers’ opera,” written by the late Agnes Wilcox and Freeman Word, debuted in 2016 at the First Unitarian Church under the direction of Colin McLaughlin. It focused on St. Louis’ rich, mostly unexplored, labor history. After Ferguson, it became increasingly clear that workers engaged in these organizing efforts understood very clearly the connection between workers’ rights and civil rights in this post-industrial society that is growing up around us. And it became clear to Bread and Roses that it was time to produce a theater piece, a ‘workers’ opera,’ that would connect the “then” with the “now.”