Shouts and yells can be heard echoing through the hallways of Clark Hall as emotions peak during a rehearsal for the upcoming Eldred Theater production of Waiting for Lefty. Director and Case Western Reserve alumnus Timothy Koch (CWR ’08) leans in to examine a vignette, his head tilted as the actors continue a run-through of the 1935 play by Clifford Odets. There is no hiding from the intensity, but the production team seems to lean in further as the scenes reach a pinnacle and another set of actors takes over to begin the same emotional mountain climb. (story continued after gallery)
Told through a series of vignettes, Lefty is focused on a group of cabbies planning a labor strike. The play jumps from heated rally speeches to intimate portrayals of families struggling with hunger and poverty. While the play may be nearing octogenarian status, it has a resonance with the director, and his intense focus during the scene work stems from a desire to tell a passionate and cutting story.
“Waiting for Lefty’s staying power comes from its sharp dramatic writing, yes, and also from its troubling resonance to the contemporary problems in our lives,” Koch says. “… Financial, political and healthcare systems are absolutely built in favor of the wealthiest class, disregarding and actually exploiting the working and service-industry classes. The fable of upward mobility and American values have been sold out for corporate interests. And finally, as in the 1930s, anyone who has the guts to stand up and say that all of this is wrong is labeled a liberal, a socialist and a radical.”
Koch is not the only alum working on Lefty; he is joined by set designer Cassie Dorland (CWR ’10). Dorland and Koch worked on projects together while undergraduates, and they have continued to work together in New York, where they both now live.
“That shared history is a huge advantage that we call on while problem solving,” Koch says. “She’s also a great friend, and it’s a joy to come back to where we started and share our professional experience with the students.” Lighting designer Kevin Frazier and costume designer Justin Bilewicz round out the production staff for the show.
Lefty opens Friday, Oct. 3, at 8 p.m., and performances run through Oct. 12. For tickets, information and to view the entire Eldred Undergraduate Theater Season click here.