Jorgensen, the owner of New England Wire and Cable at the heart of Other People’s Money, was a very particular kind of civic leader, said Edward James Hyland, the actor playing the role in Long Wharf Theatre’s production.
Jorgensen felt an obligation to his community to make sure that his workers were well treated, and that the town around his factory prospered. Yes, he would make money – after all that was the point, but he would also make a better life for the people around him. “Without them, you couldn’t have what you get,” Hyland said. The idea of protecting the factory from a corporate raider is the conflict at the heart of the play – and the core of what makes Jorgensen tick.
Rehearsals for Other People’s Money have forced the cast to confront the many different political concerns currently permeating our society. The opposition of Wall Street versus Main Street, what happens to communities when its core industry goes away, and the ethics of business all have been fodder for discussion.
For example, there is a similarity to what happened in the 1980s to what has happened more recently with the coal industry, Hyland said. “People made their lives in this industry and suddenly it disappeared around them and they don’t know what to do. They have a single skill set and retraining and rebooting their lives is essential because there is no other way. There are industries that are being shut down and it is coming down hard on the backs of working people,” he said.
Regardless of the kind of work, economic pressures can be a great leveler. The vast majority of actors generally don’t know when and where their next gig is going to come. It’s a degree of uncertainty that allows Hyland to understand and empathize with the characters in the play. “It didn’t matter what you were doing, if you weren’t working on Broadway, you weren’t making much at all. That hasn’t changed. We live week to week. We get by week to week,” he said.