The Triangle Factory Fire Project: First Production of 2013-2014 School Year


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It’s that time of year again—time for the first play production of the school year! The cast and crew have been getting ready since the beginning of September, and they’re ready to put on a great show.

The Triangle Factory Fire Project is a historical drama about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, a tragedy in which over 140 workers were killed. The playwright, Christopher Piehler, in collaboration with Scott Alan Evans, created a historically accurate rendition of the terrible events of the factory fire, which is one of the reasons why this version was chosen.

“There are several plays written about the Triangle fire and some of them take a much more traditional story approach, but this one actually incorporates historical documents like eyewitness accounts, newspaper articles, and testimonies before the fire commission and in the courtroom,” said SMSU professor and director Nadine Schmidt. “I’d say about ninety percent of the show is real words and accounts spoken by real people at the time.”

“Only three of the ten shows I’ve directed here have not been comedies, so I felt like it was time for something different,” said Schmidt. “I knew I wanted something that was meaningful in terms of social issues and I wanted to focus also on women and workers.”

With a cast of thirty and crew of over one hundred, it is the biggest production that Schmidt has ever directed. Schmidt is also predicting a large audience for the showings.

“The thing that really seems to appeal to people is that it’s a real story of what happened to real people,” said Schmidt. “Ones who’ve heard of the Triangle fire want to see it because it’s haunted them, and one’s who haven’t are amazed that they didn’t know about it. My hope is that people leave knowing that tragedies like this still happen today.”

Two of the cast members are Freshmen Emilie Baartman and Kerry Billings. Baartman will be playing the role of Ida Mittleman and Billings will be playing the role of Ethel Monick. The Triangle Factory Fire Project will be both of their first productions as college students. Ida is portrayed as an immature 21-year-old who is good friends with May Levantini, a character much older than her. Ethel is a bubbly 16-year-old “with a lot of sass, which is fun to play,” according to Billings.

“Most of us have dialects, and I have to speak with a German accent, which I’ve been practicing since I started learning German three years ago,” said Baartman. “I think if you can get that it helps you grasp the character better.”

The showings are Oct. 24-26 and Nov. 1-2 at 7:30 PM, and Nov. 3 at 2 PM. Dinner theater is offered on Oct. 25 and Nov. 2. Tickets are $12 for students and senior citizens and $14 for adults. Dinner theater is $32 and $34 respectively. Students can get in free on the first performance, Thursday Oct. 24.

The whole theater department has worked hard to create a great show to kick off the first production of the year. Come support your fellow Mustangs at any of the showings listed above!

“It’s been both exciting and exhausting, but it’s a lot of fun and definitely worth it.” Billings said.

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