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CSUB presents "Nickel & Dimed"'
  October 20, 2006
Mike Stepanovich, 661/654-2456,,
or Jaclyn Loveless, 661/654-2138,

Barbara makes $7 an hour working at a restaurant in Key West seven days a week, barely scraping together enough money to afford the motel room she lives in. Her feet hurt most of the time from standing all day and she deals with a micro-managing boss who only allows six croutons per salad. The federal government tells Barbara that any job is better than poverty. But living on low wages is just as bad, if not worse for Barbara than having no money at all.

This is the plotline for the upcoming California State University, Bakersfield theater production of "Nickel and Dimed," by Joan Holden, adapted from the book by Barbara Ehrenreich. The play will run at the CSUB Doré Theatre from Nov. 2-5.

Ehrenreich, a journalist, lived in this kind of environment while writing a story on the working poor in America for Harper's Bazaar magazine. What Ehrenreich discovers is what it's really like to live in low-wage America. Her exploits as a low-income worker are chronicled in the book "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America" where Ehrenreich experiments with "unskilled" labor in three different American cities.

"Nickel and Dimed" has become part of a new experiment at CSUB. John Dirkse, interim associate vice president for academic affairs and dean of undergraduate and graduate studies, decided a common reading among freshman students should be instituted at CSUB. Dirkse and English professor Kim Flachmann decided that "Nickel and Dimed" would be a good book to start with.

"We wanted to show not only that reading is important to us here at CSUB, but we wanted a book that would naturally lead to student involvement in discussion and debate," said Dirkse. "Nickel and Dimed" has had its fair share of debate. "This book started demonstrations on several campuses when it was first published," Dirkse said, "I'm certainly glad that hasn't happened here at CSUB." Dirkse believes that the common reading program is performing well. "I haven't heard anything bad from the professors, so I take that as a good sign," he said.

Along with the common reading, Dirkse asked if it was possible to put on a theater production of the book. "I'd heard about a theater adaptation of the book, so I asked our theater department if they could do a play concurrently with the book," said Dirkse.

The theater adaptation, by Holden, follows Ehrenreich's progress through the world of low-income America. Mandy Rees, CSUB theater director, is excited to put on this production. "We have a new cast and a lot of new people this year and that always makes for an exciting play," Rees said. "The theater adaptation is very challenging. The scenes change very quickly throughout."

Rees feels that this play hits home on campus where many students work the same kind of jobs that Ehrenreich does. "The students relate well to Ehrenreich's experience," said Rees, "and it's opened the eyes of some cast members who have never experienced working in a service industry." Rees hopes that this play, along with the book, will generate plenty of excitement and interchange among students.

"Nickel and Dimed" opens on Thursday, Nov. 2 for a four-performance run. The curtain will rise at 8 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 2-4, with one matinee performance Sunday, Nov. 5 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10, $8 for seniors, CSUB faculty and staff, and $5 for students.

For more information on "Nickel and Dimed" or the CSUB theatre department please contact Rees at (661) 654-2240 or