Being out of work is serious business. So why would anyone write a play about it?
To help, of course. On Saturday, February 12, at 2 p.m. Karen Carson, who works at the New Jersey State Library in Trenton, will present her one-act play, “Eating the Bear: Snapshots of the New Normal” at library headquarters at 120 Academy Street. The event is free. Call 609-392-7188.
Though employed, Carson says she was inspired to write the play based on “what I hear on the news and on the bus. The phenomenon of downsizing and how we cope with unemployment affects all of us.”
Carson says that commuting on public transit has put her in touch with a wide spectrum of the working (“and, sadly, non-working”) people every day. “In the 20 or 30 minutes it takes to reach my destination the conversation with fellow passengers inevitably turns to the topic of downsizing and job loss,” she says. “A manager wonders how she will be able to break the news to her secretary and wonders if and when she will be the next person to go. A middle-aged man a few years away from retirement mourns the loss of company loyalty. A recent college graduate cobbles together a string of part time jobs to pay off student loans and make the rent.”
This is the first of Carson’s plays that has made it to the stage. A theater major who earned her bachelor’s degree from Emerson College in Boston, she has acted in small roles in Massachusetts and New York (“but not on Broadway”). She also has done some small theater acting in New Jersey, her home state, and is a singer.
Carson also holds a master’s in human services administration from Rider and used to write an online advice and guidance column for human resource professionals. She no longer writes the column but she still dabbles in theater writing and hopes to grow “Eating the Bear” from a 40-minute reading piece to a full-fledged play. She also will be reading one of the roles on February 12.
Carson says she tries her best to counsel those people by relating her own experiences of being out of work. Her advice: “Don’t isolate yourself. Keep busy. When you help someone else even with small tasks, you ultimately help yourself because you are reminded of your inherent value.”
Such conversations occurred so frequently that one morning on the ride to work Carson promised herself that she would write a theater piece about the subject. “I felt that the best way to accomplish this would be through a variety of monologues that could spark discussion about the topic and give audience members an opportunity to share their own experiences,” she says.
Attendees will have the chance to share their own experiences, offer their own perspectives, and ask their own questions following the reading.
Anyone interested in either reading one of the roles or in having a reading at their college, church, social club, book store, library, or coffee house, can E-mail Carson at email@example.com. She asks that you reference your interest in the play in the subject field of your E-mail.
To accompany the February reading the library will display a collection of books and resources for jobseekers.