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URBANA — A play based on hard times for working people opens tonight at the Station Theatre.

"Sweat" is directed by Mathew Green.

A Pulitzer Prize winner, the drama's inspiration comes from real events between 2000 and 2008 in the factory town of Reading, Pa.

The play takes place with much of its time in a bar, as the factory shuts down and the characters deal with their frustrations.

Evelyn Reynolds of Champaign is an associate professor of sociology at Parkland College and an organizer with Black Lives Matter. So she knows about working-class struggles.

"What's interesting is that the playwright, Lynn Nottage, interviewed several people in Reading, Pennsylvania, and wrote this play based on depictions of them and their experiences," Reynolds said. "The presidential elections and politics that are shown in the play are real-life events, real people. This is America."

Matt Hester plays Stan the bartender, who has a pivotal role.

"I think what I enjoy most is that Stan has seen it all, but is no longer in the game. His wisdom comes from his experience," Hester said.

"He's put in the years at the factory and knows the devastation of losing it. He's getting by pretty well, but can still sympathize completely. No longer having to rely on the factory has given him a clearer outlook on the state of the town and its possible demise."

For Reynolds, her first time out at the Station doesn't cause trepidation.

"I'm really excited about it, actually," she said.

"I'm familiar with theater through background roles in high school plays and attending dozens in my lifetime. When I first read the play, my character really stood out to me — there was some relatedness, but also a lot of things I found to be inspirational."

Her character's name is Cynthia.

"She is a hard worker, but also loves hard and plays hard. She's dedicated to maintaining stability in her life, which could come across as selfishness, but it's really a deep desire to take care of herself and her family," she said.

Reynolds said "this play is a creative project and performance, but it is also real life."

"In the U.S., jobs have been outsourced, people have been locked out of plants, there is racism and there are racists. This play does a good job of highlighting some of the systemic factors that lead to unemployment and poverty."

The people on whom the characters are based "tend to work non-standard hours with little to no health benefits, carry multiple jobs, and many are at jobs in which physical or health risks are present," she said.

"They are skilled, they have families, they have dreams. They are not a hopeless and helpless group of people. I hope this comes through in the play."

If you go

What: "Sweat," winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Where: Station Theatre, 223 N. Broadway Ave, U

When: Aug. 2 to 18. Go to or call 217-384-4000 for ticket availability

Admission: $15; $10 for students and seniors; 2 for $20 Fridays


Paul Wood is a reporter at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@pvawood).