MSU Theatre Delivers a Modern Look on Unions with ‘Waiting for Lefty’ 

The complexities and struggles of a New York City cab drivers’ union on the verge of a strike is the focus of the next production by the Michigan State University Department of Theatre

Offering a modern view to a 90-year-old story, the Department of Theatre presents Waiting for Lefty March 26-30 in the MSU Auditorium’s Studio 60.

set of four separate images placed together in a compopsite. From left to right: image of two woman, image of one white man, image of one Black man, image of two people one who is siting and the other who is standing behnd the person sitting with their hands on that person's shoulders.
Cast members of Waiting for Lefty and Just Cause, from left to right: Ebony Battle, Ava Ballagh, Tyler Finch, Michale Coffey, Hugh Watters, and Logan Verlinde.

Written by Clifford Odets, Waiting for Lefty is based on the New York City cab drivers’ strike of 1934. This one-act play is set during a meeting of the New York cab drivers’ union as they wait for the arrival of Lefty Costello, union organizer and the driving force behind the call for a strike. As workers wait, they share their heart-wrenching tales in their struggle to make ends meet.

This classic play still resonates today as labor disputes continue to loom large. The recent Screen Actors Guild and Writer’s Guild strikes are just two such examples.  

This MSU production is part of the Department of Theatre’s Storefront Series, which provides dynamic roles to showcase and challenge acting students. With an emphasis on writing, acting, and directing, creative teams work with limited resources and shorter rehearsal periods.  

Two actors, a boy and a girl, hugging on stage with a sign in the background that says: "No News of Free Press Wanted Here!"
Jameson Patrona and QueenMakeeda Taylor in Waiting for Lefty.

“Originally produced on Broadway under the auspices of the Group Theatre, which championed realistic acting and contained some of the most influential acting teachers of the last century, Waiting for Lefty seemed a natural fit for our Storefront Series considering the rise in national union interest,” said Rob Roznowski, Director and Professor of Acting, who aims to connect this story with our country’s current outlook on unionizing groups.  

Prior to each main performance, audiences will experience a supplemental piece written by Roznowski, showcasing female-identifying voices within the current atmosphere of unions. The title of this companion piece is Just Cause, a new documentary theatre piece that explores both pro- and anti-union points of view.  

five female actors on stage with a sign in the background that says: "Fired for Protecting My Job!"
The cast of Just Cause, which was written by Rob Roznowski, Director and Professor of Acting.

And, as part of the efforts to create an ecosystem of university-community engagement, a traveling performance of this production was presented to the United Auto Workers Local 602 in Lansing and there was a free invited dress rehearsal on campus for the Michigan Education Association. 

Tickets for Just Cause and Waiting for Lefty are $10 for general admission and are available online at, at the Wharton Center ticketing office, or by calling 1-800-WHARTON.  

Performance Times:  

  • Tuesday, March 26, at 7:30 p.m. 
  • Wednesday, March 27, at 7:30 p.m.  
  • Thursday, March 28, at 7:30 p.m. 
  • Friday, March 29, at 8 p.m. 
  • Saturday, March 30, at 8 p.m.  

For more information, please visit the Michigan State University Department of Theatre website.