The article below was written by Rachel Beth Cohen
Step away from that familiar chair in the place you have been calling home and set out for the Wayland High School Main Stage on Thursday, Nov. 15 to see the school’s original production of Voices from the Fire. Created, produced and performed by an ensemble cast of over 20 Wayland High School students, with and under the direction of the school’s theater arts and dramatic arts teacher, Richard Weingartner, the cast presents the story of the 1911 fire that destroyed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City.
Wayland High School Theatre Ensemble (WHSTE) cast members together and individually researched the 146 garment workers, primarily young recent immigrant women, who were killed in the fire. Each created a composite character representing some segment of the workers whose lives were tragically taken by smoke inhalation, fire or jumping to their deaths from the burning factory. In Voices from the Fire, the story begins well before the heartbreaking day of the fire, as we see the cast each leave their homes in several different countries, all coming to the United States, all seeking employment in a land in which they do not speak the language, all working long hours for minimal wages at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.
Incorporating excerpts from historical documentation of the time period, news reporting, and transcripts from the trial that resulted from the fire, woven into their own understanding of the event, the WHSTE cast created and will now perform this original production in which they use their own voices to give life to the voices of the many victims of this catastrophic and appalling fire. The cast also incorporates some of the other voices that haven’t been heard, the fire chief, the fire marshall, the police, all present and a part of the day of the fire as well.
Adding in a touch of song and dance representative of America in the early 20th century, Voices from the Fire presents an important window into life in America before modern labor protection existed, the workplace conditions then prevalent, and the inevitable industrial disaster that occurred.
Voices from the Fire will be performed on Thursday, Nov. 15 through Saturday, Nov. 17, at 7:30 PM on the High School Main Stage. Tickets are $7 when purchased in advance at the High School Main Office or $8 if purchased at the door. Ample seating is available at the newly constructed Main Stage. Reservations are not required. Visit www.whsarts.org for more information.