By Andy O’Connor
The human toll of the fast-food industry has been a hot topic lately, especially with the success of the book “Fast Food Nation” and its cinematic companion. The UT drama department will do its part to inform people about unsavory fast-food practices by putting on Namoi Wallace’s “Slaughter City” at the B. Iden Payne Theatre March 2-4 and 6-9.
“Slaughter City” deals with the brutality inflicted upon workers in two settings: the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in 1911 and a modern-day meatpacking plant in “Slaughter City, U.S.A.” Laborers Roach (Gina Houston, a St. Edwards University graduate), Maggot (theater and dance senior Molly Evensky) and Brandon (theater and dance junior Philip Olsen) are caught in the middle of the brutal working environment and the hopes for better conditions promised by their union, Local 229. A worker named Cod (theater and dance junior Kim Adams) complicates matters by crossing the picket line – becoming a “scab” – and wanting to join the union.
In contrast to the grim realism of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” – which “Slaughter City” is often compared to – the play incorporates scenes of beautiful snowfalls and Sunday fishing trips, all enslaved behind the walls of the grimy factory. The factory is a bleak place with reinforced iron walls, little lighting and floors stained with blood. As the workers labor and labor, their bodies create an ominous rhythm. There are also many scene changes to emphasize the hectic nature of the plant. Sarah Davidson designed the set, and her interpretations strengthen the grit and magical realism of the play. “Slaughter City” will also intrigue the senses by having a simulated assembly line and a real fire to depict the Shirtwaist Company inferno.
“We sought to create space that could be expanded and contracted and convey a sense of the ongoing labor that sustains this country,” Davidson said.
The play was just as intense to the actors as it will be to the audience.
“From the actor’s point of view, working on Naomi Wallace can be very challenging, because her language is just as poetic as it is rugged and visceral,” Adams said….