When John Jay High School senior Isaac Sims steps out onto the stage for “Working” this week, playing interstate trucker Frank Decker, he will be appearing in his eighth John Jay show.
The 17-year-old senior has learned plenty along the way, including giving the audience something different each time out.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is to vary things,” he says. “I always want to bring something new, night to night, to impress my parents every new time. Every new show, I try to find a new way to say a line.”
His parents will be there all four performances, he says.
“Working,” the musical based on the interviews of journalist Studs Terkel, tells the story of work in the voice of the people. Each character has a moment to share his or her story and a song that illustrates their particular perspective. There are millworkers, teachers, retirees and a hedge-fund manager, with a score from various artists, including Stephen Schwartz and James Taylor.
Sims’ character this year, trucker Frank Decker, is a far cry from last year’s — Benny Southstreet in “Guys and Dolls.”
“It’s also different in how we think about it,” Sims says. “It’s not like there’s a plot but every single character is connected. Each leads to the next one and there’s an over-arching thread that connects them.”
If the show is different, and it is, so is the approach: This year, director Bill Friedman has enlisted the talents of John Jay alum (and theater professional) Andre Catrini, who is working with the students to develop their characters.
“Having him sit down with us and work with us and go over every line and help us make our own choices has been tremendous,” he says. “He and I talked about why my character chose this profession, a truck driver. We talked about what has led me to want to escape, to drive cross-country and find a new world. A truck driver experiences the world differently from other people. They’re in their truck, but they’re also on the highway and get to experience humanity looking into the windows of the cars passing by.”
“Working,” 7 p.m. April 18, 19; 1 and 7 p.m. April 20. $10; $5 students and seniors; 914-763-7200.