Stetson Performs Pulitzer-Prize winning play, “Sweat”


Kenneth McCoy

Lana Kaczmarek, Section Editor - The Reporter

Stetson University’s production of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, Sweat, was performed at the Second Stage Theatre from November 15-17 at 8 pm with a matinee performance on the 18th at 3 pm.


Sweat served as part of five students’ senior projects in the cast and crew, including Cooper Hendrix who played Jason, Lily Desenberg who played Tracey, Anders Hammerstrom who played Stan, Elijah McCoy the Stage Manager, and Bronte Joseph the Costume Designer and Understudy for the role of Cynthia.


While purchasing tickets, patrons had the opportunity to choose if they would like to immerse themselves into the production by sitting on the raised section on the stage. The audience members that choose to sit on stage get an up close and personal experience by watching the story on stage, rather than in the normal seats in the theater.


Once the audience enters the theater, they are welcomed by characters in the show who offer non-alcoholic drinks at the bar and other concessions, a game of foosball, and the opportunity to sit and interact with the characters.


Director Cori LaPinsky ‘19 said, “I wanted the audience to be as immersed as possible, especially by sitting on the stage. When the audience entered the theatre, I wanted them to interact with the characters Stan and Oscar who worked at the bar. I wanted the audience to be invested into those characters and bring their world to the audience by treating the audience as customers at the bar. I wanted the audience to feel personally connected to Stan and Oscar so by the end of the play the audience can reflect on how they felt and what they took away from what happened to those characters at the end of the show.”


The play tells the story of a group of friends and family sharing stories, drinks, and dreams as they work together on the factory floor. Following a friend’s promotion, layoffs and picket lines begin that alter the balance in their group. Trust is lost and hearts are broken as the group of friends struggle to make ends meet.


The playwright, Lynn Nottage spent two years interviewing residents in Reading, Pennsylvania to learn about their working conditions of the various classes. The play also takes place in Reading, Pennsylvania in a bar where the characters come to after a long day’s work.


Sweat highlighted themes throughout the show including hope, perseverance, dedication, trust, and loyalty.


“I hope the audience learns what it is like to walk in other people’s shoes. So many people in this play are taken advantage of and threatened. They are struggling to survive to put food on the table. One thing for me was to just listen and try to understand people and their perspective because you learn something,” said actress, Lilly Desenberg ‘19.


Despite the tough lives many of the characters faced, including racial slurs, betrayal, and physical violence, the show also introduced some inspirational characters.


“I think the story can bring out the best in people. Oscar was beaten half to death in this bar. He was pinned down and assaulted by people who called him racial slurs and hated him, but he still worked at the bar for 8 years to take care of Stan. He still stood through it and he was able to make something amazing out of himself,” added actor, Noah Belachew ‘21.


Audience members expressed their opinions from the intense scenes throughout the production while also adding some light-heartedness by reacting to some of the humorous moments during the show.


Jessie, played by Reed Barkowitz ‘22, was an audience favorite due to her humorous input while in a drunken state.


“I was surprised but I really enjoyed the more intense scenes because there was little to no filter. I think that’s important because everything is so diluted nowadays that we don’t see the seriousness of certain issues. So, I feel like it was an eye-opener for most of the audience to the reality of life,” said Ray Nobles ‘22.


Following the production, the cast and director remained on stage and held a brief Q & A session with the audience.


Members of the audience asked questions relating to the actors’ preparing for their roles, themes in the show, and the actors’ favorite character moments.


“In doing research on how bad it got for this group of people in America, it gives us context in what makes people crack. It’s not like these people had it bad from day one, a lot of bad stuff happened that made them lose themselves,” said actor Cooper Hendrix ‘19.


LaPinsky said the play was a basis for morality by understanding characters through sympathy and empathy. This show allows audiences to view poverty through a group of people who have strived for a better future.


Immerse yourself into the world of a factory worker by attending to the remainder of the performances at the Second Stage Theatre.