“People work for lots of different reasons,” says Silvio Weisner. “To earn money and to obtain meaning in life. But also to make our communities better and to support our families and our loved ones. There’s lots of reasons why we work. And I think that applies just as much to the LGBTQ community as it does to the American community-at-large.”
Weisner is making his directorial debut with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington’s production of Working: A Musical, which runs this weekend at The Atlas.
Based on the 1974 book by Studs Terkel, and adapted for the stage by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked) and Nina Faso, the musical has gone through several updates since its 1978 Broadway production, and features compositions from Schwartz, Micki Grant, James Taylor, Mary Rodgers, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
“It’s a very diverse show in terms of musical styles,” says Weisner, noting that it’s not structured like a traditional, plot-driven Broadway show. “The interesting connection between the musical styles is they’re all very American musical styles. Jazz and gospel, obviously, and Broadway show tunes, but also folk and rock elements as well.”
Which makes it perfect as a showcase for the versatile stylings of the Gay Men’s Chorus, who are adapting the piece it to enhance the musicals LGBTQ aspects.
“We’re emphasizing the themes that are already present in the show itself, by adding LGBTQ voices to the show,” says Weisner. “We’ve reimagined a number of characters in occupations that are traditionally thought of as being male-oriented or female-oriented, so we have gender-bending regarding some of those characters. We’ve also taken characters who were originally conceived of as heterosexual, and have made them gay or lesbian, by making minor changes to some of the text.”
A clinical psychologist who provides employee assistance counseling to federal government workers, Weisner says that the musical “is very near and dear to my heart, not just on a personal level, but also on a professional level.” He’s directed several community theater productions over the years — including a production of Working in 2000 — but finds the experience of working with his fellow volunteer chorus members especially gratifying.
“Professionally we work to earn a living,” he says. “But the things we do on a personal level are the things that we do for love. And so even though it’s a challenge in terms of balancing the need to devote a lot of time and a lot of attention and a lot of energy to producing a quality piece of art, it is balanced by the fact that these folks are doing it not to get a paycheck or not to check off a box, but because they love it.”
Working: A Musical runs Saturday, Feb. 9, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 10, at 3 p.m. at the Paul Sprenger Theatre in the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. Tickets are $20 to $39. Call 202-293-1548 or visit www.gmcw.org.