Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley

Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley

Putting a little play in work

By Jessie Friedman, Daily Hampshire Gazette

Tuesday, November 5, 2002 -- AMHERST - Is a family business a burden or a gift? "A Tough Nut to Crack," a new play by Ira Bryck of the University of Massachusetts Family Business Center, invites audiences to find their own answers to that question.

Part edu-tainment, part edu-therapy, the play is an innovative way for the Family Business Center to foster discussion of dilemmas commonly encountered by family-owned businesses.

The one-act, 75-minute play is an autobiographical account of Bryck's experience working in his father's clothing store for 17 years. It follows son Bud Rosenbloom as he is transformed from a long-haired hippie in the 1970s, reluctant to work in the family business, into a suit-and-tie businessman of the '90s, concerned with keeping the business afloat while living up to his father's legacy.

The son's abstract search for the meaning of life leads him to reject the down-to-earth ethics of his working-class father. At one point, the son asks, "If not for me, would children go naked?" to which his perplexed father replies, "I made a living that put food on the table, sent you to college and gave you the chance to have all these deep thoughts."

The interaction between father and son is complex - at times touching, at times full of vaudevillian humor - as they struggle to work through their disparate points of view.

Bryck, who has been running the Family Business Center for nine years, says the play is meant to make audience members question whether they have what it takes to make a family business work.

"You need a lot of mazel [luck], talent and interest to make it work," he says. "You have to get along as human beings before starting a business. Most people don't realize that family businesses face common challenges. The play makes people feel normal."

"A Tough Nut to Crack" premiered Oct. 11 in conjunction with the opening of the Harold Alfond Building at the UMass Management Center.

The performance included dinner (since, in Bryck's words, "a meeting without eating is cheating"), and was followed by audience discussion.

The play is no longer being performed locally, but is currently touring in cities across America, Canada, Europe and Australia.

Bryck will moderate a discussion examining business practices with local family businesses Nov. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at Relief Resources in Hadley. Cost is $5 at the door. To reserve tickets, call Bryck at 545-1537.

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