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Working-class issues take center stage in ‘6:01 AM’
by Cortney Maddock
May 27, 2009 | 934 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Promotional poster – “6:01 AM: A working class opera”
Promotional poster – “6:01 AM: A working class opera”
Making life seem as real as possible on the stage is the task for the actors of “6:01 AM: A Working Class Opera,” who will portray some difficult life situations during Saturday’s performance at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts.

“6:01 AM” has brought together several local organizations as well as teens and adults to put on the play. Sierra Arts, The Holland Project, Nevada Opera, Spoken Views and Rainshadow Charter High School have teamed up to bring the works of local artist Richie Panelli to life.

“ ‘601 AM: A working class opera’ is basically an adaptation of 12 of my songs and short writings,” Panelli said.

Panelli explained that he was introduced to Pan Pantoja, who is the director of “6:01 AM” through a friend, Sam O’Brien, who works with Pantoja at Rainshadow Charter High School. Panelli said that Pantoja liked his writings, poetry and songs and offered to make them into a play.

Pantoja has had his art displayed at Artown, is a member of the Nevada Arts Council and is the drama teacher at Rainshadow Charter High School. He actively works with at-risk youth in the community and has been able to involve several students in “6:01 AM.”

“There are seven kids from Rainshadow Charter High, which is an at-risk charter high school, who will be working with the play,” Panelli said.

O’Brien, who is the social studies and literature teacher at Rainshadow, said the students have been working hard to bring the production together and Pantoja has done an excellent job working with the students.

The music in “6:01 AM” is performed by the Nevada Opera Orchestra, while the actors provide spoken-word performances of songs.

Panelli said that Pantoja’s creative vision is responsible for the backdrop of the play, which encompasses the struggles each character encounters in their daily lives.

“The backdrop is an apartment building,” Panelli said. “If you could take the front off the apartment building, you can look at the people living in them. They’re mostly just everyday stories, basically from a working-class perspective. It deals with everything from love, work, God and politics.”

Panelli said that the point of following the lives of everyday working-class people was slightly inspired by the works of German playwright and author Bertolt Brecht, who often portrayed upper-class members of society as shallow and self-centered, while working-class people were revered in his works such as “Little Mahogany.”

“That’s the big point that the director wanted to make,” Panelli said. “In the audience you could have a homeless person sitting next to a millionaire.”

While socio-economic issues will be part of the focus of “6:01 AM,” the organizations that have brought it to the stage have raised money to keep the production alive.

Panelli said that the production has cost $39,000 and $32,000 has been raised to help curtail the cost. He added that while the money to put on the play was important, it is the money the play hopes to make for local charities that is more important.

“We are hoping to raise $10,000 to help (Rainshadow Charter High School’s) art and music program and the other $10,000 would go to the Holland Project,” Panelli said, adding that if the production’s Saturday performance is sold out they will achieve their goal.

“It’s an amazing show,” Panelli said, encouraging people to attend. “People who have come and watched my play have been skeptical, but it’s really powerful.”

“6:01 AM: A Working Class Opera” will be performed Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for students and children. Tickets can be purchased at or by calling the box office at 686-6600.
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