BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – The Baltimore Job Hunters Support Group (BJHSG), a program of the nonprofit Corner Community Center (CCC), announces the performance of Big Work: A Documentary Play at the CCC on Friday, October 26 and Saturday, October 27, 2018. A modern-day meditation on work, career, and the American Dream, Big Work’s cast comprises BJHSG members and community volunteers. The production is part of BJHSG’s mission to increase awareness of the long-term unemployment issue in the Greater Baltimore area. This MidAtlantic premiere is directed by Dani Turner.
“Although the play is a fundraiser, our main goal is to spotlight the plight of the older long term unemployed, defined as being age 45+ and out of work for 6 months or more,” says Janet Glover-Kerkvliet, BJHSG Director and the play’s producer. “Big Work is a play for our times. It speaks eloquently about real ordinary people and their relationship with work—searching for it, having it, losing it, retiring from it, loving it, and being completely dissatisfied with it. We attach so much of our sense of self, identity, and life meaning to what we do to pay the bills and keep a roof over our heads,” she adds.
“The piece is such an honest exploration of the role that work plays in our lives and how it shapes our identities as Americans. The idea of exploring these themes with the BJHSG community is extremely exciting. They have such an original perspective and a profound understanding of the piece. It will be a completely unique experience,” says Turner.
The 110-minute drama in 2 acts was conceived by the Boston-based playwrights Melissa Bergstrom and Kate Marple while they were exploring their own identities as professional actors for whom acting is not their main source of income. They interviewed 40 people from around the country in a wide variety of professions. The play features verbatim conservations from 19 characters, including the playwrights.
For the Baltimore performances, the characters will be performed by a diverse company of 12 community volunteers who will take on multiple roles. Several of the cast are members of the BJHSG, some are unemployed or underemployed, others are working or retired.
The performances feature a “Third Act” in which audience members can ask questions, comment on the play, and meet the cast and other BJHSG members. “We hope to start a continuing conversation with all members of the Baltimore ‘Employment Ecosystem’, including individuals from educational/skill building institutions, networking resources and groups, government unemployment resources, business associations, and local government,” says Glover-Kerkvliet.
The playwrights are “thrilled” about having their work performed outside of New England for the first time, and hope that both the Baltimore-based cast and audience find Big Work to be the same kind of cathartic experience that it has been for them. “I felt like I was alone in struggling with issues surrounding my job,” says Marple. “But somewhere along the line, working on this show [doing interviews around the country], it transformed me from feeling like a visitor to feeling like I was part of a community of people struggling with this. I know this will sound hokey, but it’s been very healing.” Bergstrom agrees: “We were drawn to the idea that documentary theatre often gives actors the gift of playing several characters in the course of the single performance, and that this kind of transformation could also serve our mission to speak to how universal our struggles with our jobs can feel.”
Performance Dates and Location
Friday, October 26 and Saturday, October 27, 2018, 8 pm
Corner Community Center
5802 Roland Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21210
Tickets are for sale ($25 general admission; $20 senior/student) via Eventbrite and may also be purchased by contacting the Corner Community Center at 410-435-1506.
Individual and Corporate Sponsors
There are many ways in which individuals and community stakeholders can assist us in helping the unemployed and underemployed. BJHSG plans to start an "incubator program," a second support group, and produce a comprehensive website and resource guide. BJHSG has established a sponsorship, program advertising, and donor circle support levels to fit every budget. For more information, please email Janet Glover-Kerkvliet at firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text 410-627-2372 to request a Sponsorship, Program Ad, and Donor Circle Packet.
About Long Term Unemployment in Baltimore and the U.S.
Even though unemployment is currently low, the number of long term unemployed people (those who have searched for work for 6 months or more without success) remains essentially unchanged at 1.4 million. “The long term unemployed constitute almost 23% of unemployed Americans. If you are age 45 and over and unemployed, you have a 43% chance of joining the ranks of the long term unemployed,” says Glover-Kerkvliet.
Currently, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that unemployment is at 3.9%. However, not everyone is counted in that percentage. “It doesn’t tell you that involuntary part time workers (those who are working part-time, often in survival jobs, but would rather work a full-time position) and discouraged workers (those who have stopped looking for work because they believe there are no jobs for them) are not counted in these percentages,” says Glover-Kerkvliet. “The majority of these workers consider themselves unemployed. If they were counted, the number of long term unemployed people would be about 6 times what is being reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” she adds.
The unemployment rate also doesn’t describe the lived experiences of older long-term unemployed people. “You wouldn’t know that the person who is stocking shelves and ringing up your order at your local superstore has a doctorate, 10-30 years of experience, and is considered an expert in their field,” says Glover-Kerkvliet. “You’re not going to know that this person has lost their home, lived in their car, or receives food stamps. Their retirement savings have been spent in the effort to survive. This person has submitted literally hundreds of applications. You wouldn’t necessarily know the humiliating questions they are asked at the few interviews they do get, like ‘You seem overqualified for this job, how do I know you’re going to stay?’ or ‘You haven’t worked in a number of years—will you be able to be somewhere at the same time every day?’ as if they have forgotten how to work,” she stated.
There is a social, emotional, and psychological toll for long term unemployed workers as well, which is the main work of the BJHSG. Says Glover-Kerkvliet, “You’re not going to see the grief that they feel. These are Baby Boomer professionals--they hide it well. They isolate from former colleagues, family, and friends, believe they are the only ones going through this, and that it’s their fault. What we do at the Baltimore Job Hunters Support Group is move older long-term unemployed workers from the despair of grief to acceptance and action.”
About the Baltimore Job Hunters Support Group (BJHSG)
The Baltimore Job Hunters Support Group (BJHSG) is a volunteer-led group that provides emotional, psychological, and spiritual (if requested) support to the un(der)employed. BJHSG was started in November 2011 by Rev. Carol Cook and Nancy Jeannechild as an outreach program of First Christian Church at the Corner Community Center. The group meets every Tuesday at 1 pm. During 2019, BJHSG will expand from a group into a program that increases our offering of coaching, advocacy, counseling, mutual mentoring, volunteering, and connection to resources, for all persons seeking employment search assistance, with emphasis on long-term unemployed workers (defined as those who have been seeking employment for 6 months or more without success) affected by the Great Recession and those who are age 45+ workers.
About the Corner Community Center (CCC)
The Corner Community Center (CCC) is a Maryland non-profit with 501(c)(3) status whose mission is to enrich our community by providing a facility for worship, arts, education, recreation, and celebration for personal and collective growth. Located in the Roland Park neighborhood of Baltimore City, CCC is the home of five congregations and 24 groups. CCC is working to enhance and expand the use of its building and grounds to provide opportunities to network, learn about environmental changes, present speakers and programs that deal with city-wide concerns, and offer spaces for meetings and programs.
About the Play Director, Danielle Turner
Dani Turner is a director, producer and administrator based in Baltimore, MD. For the past two seasons, she has served as the Artistic Assistant at Baltimore Center Stage. This season, she is taking on a new role as Education Coordinator. Recent directing credits include Lipstick, A Queer Farce (reading, Cohesion Theatre Company), Spank Me (Wearing Only Your Yarmulke) (Playwrights at the Grand), What Makes Us Feel Good (Dixon Place), Stupid F*cking Bird (Loophole Productions), Cordelia (Collaborations), Awaken: A Surrealist Circus (Collaborations), and Not Not Not Enough Oxygen (PTC). Recent assistant directing credits include Crude (Black Lab/Ars Nova), The Bachelors (Lesser America), Bright Star (workshop, Powerhouse/NYSAF). Dani has also worked with Everyman Theatre, The Tristan Bates Theatre, Encores! Off-Center at New York City Center, New York Stage and Film, and Classic Stage Company. She is the co-founder of Potluck: Young Playwrights and Directors Collective and Paper Kraine Productions at the Kraine Theater in New York. Dani is also a former Creative Team member at Idina Menzel’s A BroaderWay Foundation. She is currently the dramaturg on Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, running October 26 through November 18.
About the BJHSG Director and Producer, Janet Glover-Kerkvliet
Janet Glover-Kerkvliet, NCC, LCPC, GCDF is a career development facilitator and adult and couples therapist in Baltimore, MD. She is a Certified Prepare/Enrich Premarital/Marital Facilitator and an Imago Relationship Therapist. Ms. Glover-Kerkvliet has experience counseling clients dealing with life/career issues, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, co-occurring disorders, addiction recovery. She facilitates counseling groups and workshops designed to assist people with relationship issues, employment barriers, racial microaggressions, and other mental health concerns. As Director of the Baltimore Job Hunters Support Group, Ms. Glover-Kerkvliet is an advocate for the Healthy Workplace/Anti-Bullying Bill and legislative measures that assist long-term unemployed workers. She is a Baltimore Corps 2017-2018 Elevation Awardee. She is the former program director of the Family Employment and Support Program at the Circuit Court for Baltimore County and GenesisJobs/Goodwill Industries. She is also an experienced freelance medical writer and editor.
Read more about the Baltimore Job Hunters Support Group in this profile published in The Baltimore Sun.