Students from Arizona School for the Arts are performing “Triangle,” a play by Laurie Brooks, through May 1. It’s a remembrance of lives lived and lost at a New York City factory during 1911.
The Triangle Shirt Waist Fire took the lives of 146 people, mostly young immigrant women who worked in deplorable conditions for unfair wages. Factory doors were locked during working hours to prevent theft.
When a fire broke out on the top floors, workers were unable to escape. Fire truck ladders were too short to reach many of the victims. Some chose leaping out of windows over tortuous death by fire.
It’s weighty material for a high school theater production, but ASA students did it justice during Friday night’s performance. Brooks’ writing is rich with vivid detail, and made me feel at times like I was right there on that factory floor.
Several elements essential to setting the mood for this story are executed by students. Nathan Naimark, who also performs in the show, delivers powerful lighting design. Costume design by Sophia Uptadel hints at the subtle ways workers were similar yet unique. Properties design is by Anika Larson.
Scenic design by Samantha Boswick, who teaches theatre production studies at ASA, features scaffolding draped with tattered pieces of fabric that convey the dreariness of life for many industrial age workers.
Sound design by A. Beck — which combines period piano music, the sound of a factory whistle and actor vocalizations simulating humming machines — is equally effective. Beck is theatre arts coordinator at ASA and serves as artistic director for this production of “Triangle.”
Themes pulled from the lives of 1911 men and women feel remarkably relevant 100 years later. Parental expectations. Sibling rivalry. Teen yearnings for independence. Gender roles. Poverty. Illegal immigration. Worker rights. Corporate responsibility.
The year 1911 — in the hands of playwright Laurie Brooks and Arizona School for the Arts — doesn’t feel all that far away. That may be the most powerful lesson of all.
Note: Those who attend “Triangle” this weekend (Sat, 7pm or Sun, 2pm) can also enjoy related artwork by students in ASA’s introduction to theatre class, which is exhibited in the lobby of the Phoenix Theatre Little Theatre. Click here to learn more about the Triangle factory and fire.
Coming up: The smell of childhood, Circle time