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Economics 101: How Steven Pasquale Prepared for His New Role in Ayad Akhtar's JUNK

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Steven Pasquale is returning to the Broadway stage this season, portraying financial genius, Robert Merkin, in Ayad Akhtar's Junk.

It's 1985. and Robert Merkin, the resident genius of the upstart investment firm Sacker Lowell, has just landed on the cover of Time Magazine. Hailed as "America's Alchemist," his proclamation that "debt is an asset" has propelled him to dizzying heights. Zealously promoting his belief in the near-sacred infallibility of markets, he is trying to re-shape the world.

JUNK is the story of Merkin's assault on American capitalism's holy of holies, the "deal of the decade," his attempt to takeover an iconic American manufacturing company and, in the process, to change all the rules. What Merkin sets in motion is nothing less than a financial civil war, pitting magnates against workers, lawyers against journalists, and ultimately, pitting every one against themselves.

Set over 30 years ago, this is a play about how, while most of us weren't watching, money became the only thing of real value.

With such heady material. Steven has had his work cut out for him with the part. Learning the ins and outs of big-time finance is no easy feat, and so to prep for his role, Steve armed himself with information and studied up. Below check out some of the tomes he used to better portray one of American finance's most famous financial minds.


Den of Thieves by James B. Stewart

A #1 national bestseller, James B. Stewart's Den of Thieves brings us the full story of the insider-trading scandal that nearly destroyed Wall Street and the men who almost pulled it off. The book takes us inside of the inner-workings of four of the eighties' greatest Wall Street power players and how they created the greatest insider-trading ring in financial history. Learn how these bankers almost walked away with billions, until a team of low-key detectives triumphed over some of America's most expensive lawyers and brought this greed-driven foursome to justice.

The Unwinding: The Inner History of the New America by George Packer

In The Unwinding, George Packer delves into the financial narrative of past three decades by sorting through the lives of several distinctly different Americans. From an rural evangelist for a new economy in the South, a factory worker in the Rust Belt trying to survive the collapse of her city, a Washington insider caught between political idealism and the lure of organized money, and a Silicon Valley billionaire who arrives at a radical vision of the future, this ambitious history of the new American economy is a recommended read for anyone interested in our current national financial predicament and how we got here.

Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco by Bryan Burrough

A #1 New York Times bestseller has been argued the best true-business tale ever written, the story weaves an account of the fall of RJR Nabisco. This re-print of the valuable cautionary tale brings a remarkable story of greed up to date twenty years after the famed deal.

Predator's Ball by Connie Bruck

This book tells the fascinating story of how one investment banker masterminded the creation of the Junk bond market, generating billions of dollars in profit before being brought down by charges of insider trading, stock manipulation, and fraud. This excavation of the career of the man nicknamed "the Junk Bond King" spans Michael Milken's dealings in high-yield bonds, numerous corporate raids and hostile takeovers, guided by unethical and illegal tactics.

Makers and Takers by Rana Foroohar

Despite the deep political divide in our nation, most Americans can agree that our current economic system is rigged to favor privileged elites at the expense of regular people. In this powerful book, Financial Times columnist Rana Foroohar, draws on in-depth reporting and interviews at the highest rungs of business and government to show how the "financialization of America"is threatening the American Dream.


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