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2002-2017: Now in Year #14 of our Kamikaze Journey!
Subversive Theatre: Where pissing you off is only the beginning

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 "The subjects for our people's theatre will have to be new.  Its audience has changed, and now we must talk to this audience about itself.
  As far as I am concerned, I now have nothing more to say to the bourgeois."

-Jean-Paul Sartre
Click below for more info...
-- About Author Barbara Ehrenreich
-- About Author Joan Holden
-- About this Play's Production History
-- Meet the Cast
-- Meet the Crew
-- Production Photos
-- Return to the NICKEL AND DIMED Mainpage
-- Subversation Saturdays
Buffalo News Review 4/15/08
-- Nightlife Mag. Review 4/21/08
-- WBFO News Feature 5/7/08

-- Interview with Barbara Ehrenreich
-- Interview with Joan Holden
-- Living Wage Campaigns

Production History of


     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.  I 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 Year."

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:

     "NICKEL 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 saw.  It 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 compress it 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 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 America.
     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.

     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 America. 

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