Production History of
NICKEL AND DIMED
WHERE IT ALL STARTED . . .
NICKEL AND DIMED was first written as a book
by journalist Barbara Ehrenreich under the title Nickel and Dimed: On
(Not) Getting by in America. Ehrenreich herself explains where
the initial idea for the book came from:
"It all grew out of a conversation with the
editor of Harper's magazine about welfare reform. This wasn't something
that I was pitching him an article on. I was just talking about it and
marveling at the smug assumption that women coming off of welfare would do
perfectly fine as soon as they got a job.
The arithmetic just didn't look good to me.
had been thinking about this a lot, because I often write about issues related
to women and poverty, and I said, 'Somebody should go do the
old-fashioned kind of journalism and try it for themselves.'
Anyway, many months later, he said,
'You!' So it started as a magazine assignment. And there was a lot
of response to that article once it was published, so my book editor said, 'Do more, and we'll make a book out of it.'"
Ultimately Ehrenreich worked a long list of
low-income jobs in three different parts of the country from 1998 to
2000. She published her book in 2001. It was an immediate success
selling out its first publishing in a matter of weeks. It quickly became
a New York Times Best-Seller and was declared "Notable Book of the
HOW THE BOOK BECAME A PLAY.
One day in January of 2002, Bartlett Sher,
Artistic Director of Seattle's Intiman Theatre, heard Barbara Ehrenreich on
National Public Radio talking about her book. Without even having read
the book, Sher immediately recognized it as the sort of story that would
translate well to the stage.
By March of 2002, Sher had put the project in motion
commissioning San Francisco Playwright Joan Holden to work on writing the
stage adaptation of NICKEL AND DIMED. Holden would have to work
fast, because Sher had already made plans to debut the play in Seattle just
five months later.
Holden describes some of the challenges involved:
AND DIMED was a whole lot
of heavy lifting because it's a work of non-fiction. There are two aspects.
One is it happens in three different places; she works at nearly a dozen
different jobs. And she's a journalist. She's describing what she
doesn't need to be organized in the same way fiction does, it doesn't
need a plot. It reveals
observations and experiences. So the first level of work was just to
and condense it for the stage, to combine characters and enhance incidents, to
make everything count for more
than it does in the book.
For the stage, you don't get four
incidents to make a point, you get one. So just
condensing it was sort of physical labor, really. Then
there's the second level which is it doesn't have a plot. It has an obvious protagonist because
Barbara is the only one that goes all the way through.
But she's not
writing about herself, about what her experiences did to her, it's not her
main point. She's not dramatizing
that. So you are left to
figure out what that is, and then to find a way to dramatize it without falsifying."
Miraculously, Holden was able to complete a
working draft in just two months.
THE CURTAIN RISES.
The stage version of NICKEL AND DIMED made
its world debut at Seattle's Intiman Theatre under the direction of Bartlett
Sher in August of 2002. The play enjoyed rave reviews and shortly
thereafter transferred to the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles to kick off the
start of their 2002-2003 Season.
In 2003, NICKEL AND DIMED spread to dozens of
theatres across the country including San Francisco's TheatreWorks, Chicago's
Steppenwolf Theatre, Minneapolis' Guthrie Lab, Denver's Curious Theatre, and
Providence's Trinity Repertory Company. By 2005, American Theatre
Magazine listed the play as one of the Top Ten most performed new plays in
NICKEL AND DIMED made its New York City
premiere at the Bank Street Theatre in 2006. That same year it also made
its closest appearance to Buffalo at Rochester's Blackfriars Theatre.
BRINGING IT HERE.
NICKEL AND DIMED is undeniably one of the
most significant socially-relevant plays of the decade. We at Subversive
Theatre are honored to have the opportunity to bring this vital work to area
audiences for the first time. We feel that this play's themes of
poverty, exploitation, and inequality are especially relevant here in Buffalo
-- a city that the National Census Bureau lists as the "second poorest
big city in America" -- and we will continue to do our utmost to give
artistic voice to the issues that so sorely need to be addressed in modern-day