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New Fringe Fest Musical Inspired by Union Fight at Starbucks Puts Low-wage Retail Workers in Spotlight

The Silent Room: A Worker's Musical

Contacts: Ted Dewberry, 763-607-4492; Erik Forman, 612-598-6205

The Silent Room Takes Audiences Inside Labor Insurgency in America's Corporate Chains

Sneak Preview: 7:30pm July 7th, Zorongo Dance Theater Performance Dates: August 5th-11th in the Minnesota Fringe Fest at the Gremlin Theater.

MINNEAPOLIS-- When a coworker at Starbucks approached barista Ted Dewberry about forming a union at their workplace, his initial reaction was fear. Working 17 hour days at Starbucks and IKEA to pay off decades-old film school student loans, Ted was in no position to risk his job. He reluctantly agreed to come to a meeting, but only to listen. Little did he know the decision would change his life. In the months that followed, Ted and his coworkers faced down a campaign of intimidation coordinated by Starbucks' anti-union consultants at the Akin Gump law firm, won improved working conditions at their store, and helped spark a retail workers movement that continues to grow with unionization campaigns at Jimmy John's, Target, Walmart, the Apple Store, and other corporate juggernauts.

An independent filmmaker in his limited free time, Dewberry decided to tell the story of what happens when you say "union yes." The result is "The Silent Room," a new music-laced exposé of the misery of the corporate retail workplace. The name of the show is inspired by a special room in the Twin Cities IKEA for workers to go to when they have a nervous breakdown on the job.

"This is a story that needs to be told. All across America, workers face stagnant wages, understaffing, disrespect, slashed benefits, and job insecurity. We want workers to know that they are not alone, and that you can fight back and win by organizing a union, like we did at Starbucks," says Dewberry.

Audiences can get a sneak preview of "The Silent Room" at 7:30pm on July 7th at the Zorongo Dance Theater in Minneapolis before the world premier of the show in the Minnesota Fringe Fest in August. If the production is successful, the workers hope to inspire parallel productions across the United States, wherever workers face poor working conditions and abusive bosses.

The production is sponsored by the Industrial Workers of the World, a labor union that has made headlines in recent years for high-profile organizing efforts at Starbucks and Jimmy John's. The theater company is donating all proceeds from the show to the IWW's Mutual Aid Fund to support workers who have been fired in retaliation for union activity.

One of the largest theater festivals in the United States, the Minnesota Fringe Fest is an annual 11-day performing arts festival in Minneapolis-St. Paul. From family-friendly shows to spectacles you wouldn't bring your mother to, the Fringe hosts an eclectic mix of performing arts--all presented in 60-minute blocks easy to navigate for both wizened theater veterans and the casually curious.