A “Little Peasants” Reading at The Burren Backroom

Presented by Food Tank 
Written by Bernard Pollack
Directed by Dori A. Robinson
Dramaturgy and Production by Elena Morris

Wed, Feb. 7 @ 7 PM
Wed, Feb. 21 @ 7 PM SOLD OUT
The Burren Backroom 
Somerville, MA

Critique by Kitty Drexel

SOMERVILLE, Mass. — The Food Tank presents two readings of Little Peasants: A Peek Behind Closed Doors of a Food Workers’ Union Organizing Campaign. This article is based on the reading performed on Feb. 7 at 7 PM. Little Peasants is supported by the Somerville Arts Council through the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Little Peasants is about union organizing, the petty billionaire corporations that hate them, and the people on either side. It is the night of a vote to organize the baristas of a Unicorn Coffee franchise into a professional union. Ella (Autumn Blazon-Brown) and Molly (Lorraine Victoria Kanyike) represent the pro-union baristas of a Unicorn Coffee in Kansas City, Missouri. They are antagonized by anti-union corporate goons, Craig (Rob Cope) and Monique (Christa Brown). Ashley (Ciera-Sade Wade) and Michael (Jake Mouchawar) are baristas on the fence. Both sides must convince the Unicorn Coffee employees (the audience!) to vote pro- or anti-union before the night is through. 

This reading requires minimal audience participation. Near the end of the performance, audience members are asked to vote with the cast to join or abstain from joining the coffee workers’ union. Your vote will be counted. 

Little Peasants is performed as a reading. Feedback is provided at Food Tank’s request. 

Little Peasants is already a solid show. It has a perspective and goals. It fleshes out its main characters into layered, flawed yet believable persons. It’s funny while asserting the solemnity of the union vote. Its story setup arcs into a dramatic climax and then resolves nicely with an ending chosen by the audience.

Unfortunately, it tells more than it shows. The audience needs Little Peasants to show us why the baristas are undecided about the vote. It needs to show us how despicable the corporate shills are so dirty. 

The roles of Monique and Craig are currently more tightly written than the baristas. They are easier to define because they are evil. Society can easily identify villains. Their greed and antisocial behaviors make them obvious. 

Characters Ella, Molly, Ashley, and Michael define themselves through the exhibition. They take precious stage time to tell us their backstory in dialogue with other characters. We aren’t shown who they are in relation to each other or at their workplace like we do Monique and Craig. We want to see them engage with each other instead of monologuing their histories on a static stage.

In 2023, Starbucks illegally closed 23 stores trying to unionize. The billionaires in charge don’t care if their employees suffer. They don’t see people; they see profits. You can show your support by only frequently Starbucks and other coffee retail locations that fully support their employees. Don’t know which locations those are? Ask your barista

The reading on Feb. 7 was fun. We had a beer from the bar and watched local actors deliver a good performance. The Feb. 21 reading is sold out. If you’d like Food Tank to host another reading, please contact them HERE.

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