Marie-France Arcilla
Marie-France Arcilla

In the musical Working, six actors portray 36 ordinary Americans as they strive to transcend everydayness and find significance in their day jobs. Based on Studs Terkel's 1974 bestseller Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do, the play opens December 12 at 59E59 Theaters. Throughout the week, the cast members of Working will reveal their experiences hacking it as non-actor-y normal working folk.

First up: Marie-France Arcilla, who told TheaterMania she used to check-in the coats of drag queens.

What was your first job ever?

If you don't count weeding out my older relatives' grays at a penny a hair, my first job would have to have been a newscaster on a local kids' news show when I was nine. It was my first brush with the glamour and fame that comes from sitting at a plywood desk painted in primary colors. I made sixty dollars an episode, which I wisely invested in a bike with a taillight and a bell.

Were you good at it?

I was invited back twice, then not again. I cried and cried when my mother told me that they had called asking for me but had said, "No, she has to concentrate on school." I later found out that she had only told me that so I wouldn't feel bad that they had never actually called. Self-esteem was my mother's gift.

What did your parents do for a living when you were growing up?

My mother was a stay-at-home mom who often experimented with making things like homemade yogurt and peking duck. That must be where I get my obsession with food. I could never keep track of what my father did, as it seemed to vary by the year, but no matter what it was, it was to me always so exciting and glamorous: a TV basketball commentator, a radio personality, a golf tournament organizer,[an] adman, a PR guy...Our home was always wonderfully stacked with whatever products he was endorsing at the time: Awesome when they were moonpies, candy, and -- later in life – rum; Less so when they were powdered milk and toothpaste.

What was the worst job you've ever had and why?

I guess the worst job I ever had was, at the same time, the best job I ever had: running coat check at a downtown underground bar populated mostly by drag queens, a Blue Bunny, and naked boys. My life has never quite been as interesting since.

Marie-France Arcilla and the cast of <i>Working</i>
Marie-France Arcilla and the cast of Working
(© Richard Termine)

Who is the hardest working person you know and why?

My [mother-in-law.] I first met my then-boyfriend's mother on an evening in July. She opened the door, took the giant duffel of laundry that he had brought up from the city, and sat us down to a delicious 3 course meal, asking me where I was from. It was late, so after dinner, we all went straight to bed while she cleaned up in the kitchen, refusing all help. We woke the next morning to find pastries and coffee …and her son's laundry washed and hanging to dry in the garden, while she herself was nowhere to be found until she walked in the door at noon. She had been at work. She walked straight into the kitchen and pulled out the chicken that had been slow roasting all morning and prepared lunch. After lunch, she ironed the dry clothes, then cleaned the pool. She then prepared the roast for dinner and stuck that into the oven before she went back to work. That evening we all…sat down to a delicious dinner as we had the evening before. The only difference was that, that night, I knew my now mother-in-law had set an unbelievably high standard!