@ The Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Main St.
 

Nickel and Dimed

By Joan Holden, directed by Ceil Herman

  • Front (L to R) Wynne Broms and Natalya Seibel Rear (L to R) Connie Welch and Rory Measure
  • L to R: Natalya Seibel, Wynne Broms, Connie Welch, Ken Eastlack
  • L to R: P.J. Waggaman, Wynne Broms, Rorie Measure, Amy Carpenter, and Armando Sarabia
  • L to R: Shaun Hadfield and Wynne Broms
  • L to R: Wynne Broms and Amy Carpenter

Jan 13-Jan 22, 2006

FRI JAN 13,20 | 8:00 PM
SAT JAN 14,21 | 8:00 PM
SUN JAN 15,22 | 2:30 PM
THUR JAN 19 | 7:00 PM

Description

Credits

Barbra
Customer, Carlie, Marge, Marguerite, Fat Lady
Customer, Editor, Stockboy,John
Gail, Nanny, Rich Lady, Grace, Melissa
George, Boyfriend, Pete, Ted
Nita, Joan, Maddy, Letty, Kimberly
Teen, Daughter, Holly, Soial Worker, Customer
Waiter, Hector, Cashier, Customer
Waiter, Winn Dixie Manager, Philip, Howard
Assistant State Manager
Director
House Manager Coordinator
Light & Sound Board Operator
Prop Construction
Prop Construction
Publicity
Set Construction
Set Construction

Reviews

Play asks tough questions
Humor renders answers palatable

- by Elaine Kaufmann, Las Cruces Bulletin [ January 13. 2006 ]

No Strings Theatre Company's presentation of "Nickel & Dimed" should have Las Crucens lining up for tickets like shoppers waiting for the doors of a large conglomerate super center retail chain to open on Christmas Eve.

The plot itself is simple. Our protagonist is Barbara, an educated writer and social critic (played by Wynne Broms) who takes on the assignment of exploring the economic reality of working class people through total immersion. She trades in her rarified existence for- the subsistence world of low-paying jobs - diner waitress, housecleaner, assisted living caretaker, and "associate" in a large conglomerate retail establishment. Barbara first navigates poe4n-a-cup drug tests, computerized personality tests and (mostly male) managers whom she, finds infuriating and, on occasion, oddly intimidating.

Along the way, Barbara stumbles into unexpected and complex hard truths about affordable housing, child care, domestic abuse, and the tough-to-comprehend reality of those for whom passing a personality test is a big, big deal. Heavy stuff - but don't fret, the play is liberally laced with laugh-out-loud funny moments that provide thoughtful and well-timed comic relief.

The devil's advocate to Barbara's foray into this foreign world is her husband (played by P. J. Waggaman). He meets Barbara's sympathy for the plight of her "subjects" with a hard dose of skepticism. After all, he tells her, he worked damn hard to pay for school, get an education and have a career - the only inequity is that some people just don't want to work. ('Fess up - how many of us have thought something similar?)

Equally discomfiting are the musings of the store manager (played by Shaun Hadfield) who points out the retail reality of $7-an-hour jobs in a "just the facts" monologue with disturbing implications. Are those who are really comfortable now willing to open their pocket-books wider so that those in a subsistent existence can become more "comfortable" (i.e., better wages, health benefits, child care) too? Are we willing to pay more in cold hard cash to remedy the situation as opposed to paying lip service to the injustice? Oh yes, these are tough issues.

The talented cast" members each had multiple roles (except for Broms), and the cast and production team did a fine job of efficient set changes. Particularly impressive was the success of the ensemble cast in creating webs of situational tension in each of the scenes. To explain this further would take too much away from the audience experience, but I will say that I felt my own blood pressure rise at the "corrosive effect of humiliation." I too, wanted to "pluck" (see the show!).

Perhaps the niftiest feature of this production is technically not even part of the show. Director Ceil Herman has incorporated a voluntary "talkback" session after the performance during which the cast and the audience can share viewpoints about topics related to the middle class/ working class schism. On opening night, the discussion evolved from the particular topic of hiring cleaning help into wider observations ranging from the economic to the philosophical. This is a unique and fascinating way to turn up the house lights and personalize the production, the cast, and even the usually faceless audience.

'Dimed' asks, 'How low can you go?'
- By Amanda L. Husson, SunLife [January 6, 2005]

Usually, we go to the theater to be diverted. We love to be transported to another time or place - to experience another life or an emotional catharsis. But sometimes, theater is not a diversion. It is a statement, or even a question.
When a play steps off the stage and becomes a living thing, breaking the wall between itself and the passive audience and seeking interaction, it's not always a comfortable thing.

No Strings Theatre Company's latest offering, "Nickel And Dimed" by Joan Holden, based on Barbara Ehrenreich's best seller "Nickel And Dimed, On (Not) Getting By In America," belongs in that second group. Directed by NSTC's artistic director, Ceil Herman, "Nickel and Dimed" focuses on Eheren-reich's real-life journey into the lives of low-wage workers in three cities and her observations of their struggle to survive.

The play's theme is particularly timely, with the public divided over an effort to raise New Mexico's minimum wage, which is currently $5.15 per hour. Herman said she expects the hot-button issue will spark conversation and get audience members thinking and talking.

The play's main character, Barbara, with the encouragement of her editor, starts a project thinking that it will be simply a scientific experiment. She proposes to "commit old-fashioned journalism," going out and trying to see if she can feed and house herself by taking low-paying jobs. The editor teases her by saying "a woman of high estate sets forth in lowly disguise - a dramatic reversal of fortune!" Barbara takes on a variety of jobs in a three-month period as a waitress, health care aide, house cleaner and chain store employee: She immediately finds the work is grueling and demeaning. As she moves from job to job, her living quarters become poorer and ultimately she is reduced to eating food pantry rations of Honey Nut Chex, sugar cookies,, tootsie rolls and canned ham. In the end, she finds her experiment to be life-enhancing and attitude-changing, but ultimately frustrating. She feels that she is an impostor who can always escape back to her own affluent life whereas the others that she meets cannot.

"It's a very politically and socially conscious play," Herman said.

Holden included an optional scene in which the action stops and the characters turn to the audience members, hammering them with questions about how they contribute to a system that keeps low-wage workers in their positions. Herman said she felt the scene was too hard on the audience, which isn't given a chance to respond, so she opted instead for a talk-back session with the audience after each performance, giving audience members an opportunity to discuss the social issues addressed in the play.

"It's a gentler way of leading into it," Herman said. "It's a very unusual play for Las Cruces. We want to open it out to the audience."

Wynne Broms, last seen in NSTC's "Wonder of the World," plays Barbara. Amy Carpenter, Ken Eastlack, Shaun Hadfield, Rorie Measure, Armando Sarabia, Natalya Seibel, PJ. Waggaman and Connie Welch round out the cast, each playing multiple roles.

'Nickel and Dimed' well worth the cost of admission
- , THE BULLETIN [January 6, 2005]

The newest play to open in Las Cruces might strike a post-holiday chord with those who are trying hard to make ends meet. Or it might, remind more fortunate people not to take their relative wealth for granted. Certainly it will inspire thought and invite deep discussion.

No Strings Theatre Company presents Joan Holden's "Nickel and Dimed," a production based on Barbara Ehrenreich's best-soiling book, "Nickel and Dimed, On (Not) Getting By in America."\

Directed by NSTC's Artistic Director, Ceil Herman, "Nickel and Dimed" opens Jan. 6 and runs through Jan. 22.

Ehrenreich's real-life journey into the lives of low-wage workers in three cities, together with her observations of their struggles to survive, combine to make an entertaining and thought-provoking play. With the encouragement of her editor, the play's main character, Barbara, proposes to "commit old-fashioned journalism" by going out and trying to see if she can feed and house herself by taking low-wage jobs.

Barbara takes a variety of jobs in a three-month period. She works as a waitress, a health care aide, a house cleaner and a chain store employee. She immediately finds the work is grueling and demeaning.

As Barbara moves from job to job, her living quarters become poorer and ultimately she is reduced to eating food pantry rations of Honey Nut Chex, sugar cookies, tootsie rolls and canned ham. In the end, she finds her experiment to be life-enhancing and attitude-changing, but ultimately frustrating. She feels she is an impostor who can always escape back to her own affluent life whereas the others that she meets cannot.

The interesting and empathetic women Barbara meets, who hold these low-wage jobs, and the men who generally hold higher positions, accept Barbara for the person she appears to be.

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