2023 Workers’ Opera entertains crowds in two-night energetic, premier

IMPORTANCE OF ORGANIZING: Bread & Roses Missouri’s 2023 Workers Opera: Blue Light Special drew huge crowds during its two-night premier May 19 and 20 at CWA Local 6300 union hall. The message of the high energy performance, which was written by workers for workers, focused on the importance of organizing not only in the workforce, but the community. – Labor Tribune photo

Missouri Correspondent

The 2023 Workers Opera: Blue Light Special, presented by Bread & Roses Missouri , drew huge crowds during its two-night premier May 19 and 20.

The event, held in partnership with partnership with the Missouri Workers Center and the Amazon STL8 Organizing Committee, was held both nights at the CWA Local 6300 union hall in Maryland Heights.

The performance was written and performed by workers for workers using a combination of theatre sketches, music, storytelling and humor. Each piece highlighted the economic and social justice issues that impact working class people.

“We were really pleased with the turnout on Friday and Saturday night,” said Bread & Roses Executive Director Emily Kohring. “Plus, the Missouri Workers Center livestreamed the event on Saturday night, and it had 400 viewers.”

This year’s Workers’ Opera focused on the efforts of Amazon employees, who are organizing to hold one of the world’s largest employers accountable for the health and safety of workers in St. Peters.

The cast included 12 local workers turned actors, several appearing on stage for the very first time. Four of the twelve actors are part of the Amazon STL8 Organizing Committee (denoted with an *). The actors featured:

  • John Antonich
  • Monica Bohlen
  • Theotis Bohlen
  • Stacey Cowsette *
  • Sonja Gholston-Byrd
  • Arianna Kimbrough *
  • Georgia Brown-Moore
  • Tema Mosby
  • Michael J. Paplanus
  • Shelton Solafleur
  • Anthony Ringo *
  • Josyland Rucker *

Another Amazon STL8 Organizing Committee member, Ash Judd, provided writing support.

The performance was directed by Mariah Richardson, a St. Louis native. She is the author of 12 plays, including Shakespeare in the Streets production The Ville: A Vengeance! and Bold, Brave, Curious! at Metro Theater Company. Along with Richardson, the creative team included musician Celia Shacklett, playing favorite songs from the Labor Movement.

The Workers’ Opera debuted in 2016 with a company of workers turned actors sharing their stories in word, song and historical reenactments. Since then, thousands of people have experienced the Workers’ Opera at venues across the state and through live and virtual performances of other productions such as The Bootheel Strike, Jailbird and Mrs. Palmer’s Honey.

Bread and Roses Missouri is a St. Louis-based nonprofit that supports and celebrates the lives of workers and their families through the arts. The organization creates arts and humanities events, exhibits and workshops for and about workers and the social and economic justice issues that impact them.

For more information about Bread & Roses, visit breadandrosesmo.org.


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