“Working!”: A directorial debut

Culture editor Giuliana Denicolo spoke with new theater director and humanities professor Dennis Henry about his first Ferris production.

How would you describe the overall success of the show? How do you feel your debut went?

I am very pleased with how the show turned out. The students worked super hard and displayed their talents. I couldn’t have asked for a better first experience at Ferris.

How do you feel you did as the director? What would you do differently?

I thought I did okay. I know I’ve done my job when I can just watch the show and not have the urge to give notes to the actors. And that is what happened on opening night. I was able to just watch the show as an audience member without having to think about fixing anything. As of today, I wouldn’t do anything differently. Usually, it takes a couple of months for the process to soak in and figure out what can be improved upon.

What were your favorite parts?

I love so many of the scenes, but the songs “A Very Good Day” and “Fathers and Sons” always make me cry.

Did you choose to do “Working” the musical? If so, why did you choose that show?

Working was suggested by the outgoing theatre director, Katherine La Pietra. When I read and listened to it, I immediately agreed. Because the show has a big cast, we were able to include 31 students on stage. This musical doesn’t have just one or two leads. The songs are spread out among a lot of people, so that gave me the opportunity to get to know the Ferris actors. And finally, and most importantly, it is a beautiful play about everyday people that we don’t often think about,  but who are crucial to our society. And it has great songs!

How was it working with the cast?

This was a fabulous cast to work with. They worked hard, took notes well, frequently worked on their own outside of rehearsal and had great attitudes. The crew was great, too. Working on a Ferris show is a lot of fun.

How was the audience turnout?

So far, both of the first two shows had between 100 and 200 people. That’s really good, but we always welcome more!

What would you say made this show different than others?

Working doesn’t have just one story. It has 20-plus stories that only sort of connect to each other. So, it’s hard to get a feel for the whole play until dress rehearsals, but it’s very satisfying when it all comes together.