It may be history, having happened more than a century ago, but the fact-based play staged by Lancer Productions at North Scott High School this weekend is as fresh as today’s headlines.
“Triangle” tells of the 1911 clothing factory fire in New York City that killed 146 people, mostly low-paid immigrant women and girls.
“I just liked that it covers so many issues that seem to be in the news,” director Margo Stites said. “Now it’s even more relevant because of the immigration issues, workplace safety, unions and, of course, the family drama.”
Producer Joanie Demmer-Freeman said current issues of workers’ rights and child labor also figure into the story.
Stites, who teaches English at North Scott, chose the play last year because it was relatively new (written in 2008) and yet carried some history with it.
“It’s really been an education for them (the students), just from the history of it and the relevance of the issues,” she said. “But also it’s been an education for them acting-wise.”
The play includes a “Greek chorus” that comments on the action as well as moving from the 1910s to the present day.
“Dramatically, it’s really pushed the kids,” Stites said of the 17-member cast.
Ninth-graders at North Scott have been studying the tragedy and 1911 U.S. labor conditions. Seventh- through ninth-graders will get a preview performance this morning before it opens to the public Friday night.
Once they’re done, they will be asked to silently enter the theater and walk through a display of pictures from the human and physical damage caused by the fire. Videos of interviews with survivors will be playing. Demmer-Freeman has created silhouettes of each of the 146 victims, with the person’s name, age and country of origin.
“We hope it turns an interest,” she said. “It really brings the story to life and gets them interested in something that happened in the past.”