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38 Commerce Street, NYC
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 11th at 8pm
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New from NoPassport Press September 2012 ETCHED IN SKIN ON A SUNLIT NIGHT by Kara Lee Corthron an intense and theatrical drama about lust, culture clash, and betrayal marks the arrival of one of the most exciting new voices in American theatre. The compelling story follows Jules, an African-American painter who has fled the U.S. under ambiguous circumstances and embraced a whole new life and family in Iceland. As Barack Obama’s meteoric presidential campaign makes Jules more homesick than ever, her husband presents their biracial daughter with a shocking present, and a mysterious visitor shows up at Jules’ studio. This whirlwind of events brings the demons of Jules’ past crashing down on her new family and challenges her sense of racial and personal identity. Originally premiered at Interact Theatre in Philadelphia. ISBN: 978-1-300-19029-5 Retail: $10.00 paperback purchase link: http://www.lulu.com/shop/kara-lee-corthron/etched-in-skin-on-a-sunlit-night/paperback/product-20386427.html NoPassport Press www.nopassport.org Tags: NoPassport Press
By Marylee Orr, Executive Director
Louisiana Environmental Action Network
After the reading produced by Off the Hyphen Productions in Baton Rouge, LA in June 2012.
The Way of Water is profoundly moving and for me deeply disturbing. What Caridad Svich captured was so painful for me because it was what I was seeing and hearing every day.
It is what I am still seeing and hearing.
One of the characters in the play could be my friend Jorey.
Sadly since we recorded that video, Jorey went out after the Hurricane and was exposed to oil that had been thrown up on the beach.
He is suffering a relapse or as he calls it a "BP rewind." It is heartbreaking.
I am so thankful for The Way of the Water because it truly tells the honest to God truth of what is happening to the marvelous people along our Gulf Coast.
God bless Caridad Svich and all the wonderful performers who tell the story of what is happening to the people on the Gulf Coast.
Keep up the great work.
Tags: The Way of Water Blog PostsWay of Water
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On The Way of Water
By Melanie Driscoll
Director of Bird Conservation, Gulf Coast Conservation
National Audubon Society
August 12, 2012
I was asked to be part of a panel following a reading of Caridad Svich’s play The Way of Water at The Red Shoes in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The request came because, as National Audubon Society’s director of bird conservation in Louisiana during the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, I initiated and helped lead Audubon’s science, volunteer, and communications response to the disaster. And I continue today to work on a team to protect, steward and support our Gulf Coast birds that suffered during the 2010 disaster. I was glad for an opportunity to see this play and to discuss it, both to help people understand more about the current situation in the Gulf, but also because it would provide me with a chance for personal reflection and for catharsis.
As a community and as a nation, we still have a need for deep healing from the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. The healing will take a long time, perhaps years, perhaps decades. For some, it will never come. Some are lost already – birds, dolphins, oysters, marsh grasses, acres, people. Many resources of the Gulf were injured, and the responsible parties and the government are working out settlements for payment for that which was damaged, lost, or killed outright. It will be years, decades, perhaps longer, until the true toll is known, until humans can look back and try to tally the true cost. Even as humans assess the damage – to human health, to cultural integrity, to the environment, to our natural resources, there are damages that remain intangible, about which we rarely even speak.
For our sense of fairness as a nation was violated. And Congress used their power to restore some of that sense of fairness, by passing the RESTORE Act, which will return 80% of Clean Water Act fines on every gallon of oil spilled to the Gulf Coast for restoration. Most Americans believed that fine for damages in the Gulf should be returned to the Gulf, and countless people contacted their legislators to advocate for that outcome. In some small measure, a sense of fairness is also being restored.
But we have lost even more in the Gulf Coast states, particularly for those who live on the Gulf, fish in her marshes, swim in her waters, and feed their families and their souls on her air, her waters, her sounds and her creatures. We have lost our sense of safety. Following a disaster of any kind, social structures disintegrate. Families lose critical support, and social ills, in the form of abuse, neglect, poverty, chemical dependency, and suicide rise sharply. Following a manmade disaster, communities that rely on the responsible parties, but hold anger toward them, turn on themselves and each other. We have lost our sense of trust, in the ecosystem that supports us, in each other, and ultimately, for some, in ourselves.
The Way of Water speaks of the human tragedy unfolding along the Gulf Coast. Media attention peaked and began to decline even before most birds drowning in oil were rescued, before most bloated dolphins were found dead on our shores. National media will revisit the coast from April 10th until April 20th each year, allowing the world to vicariously relive the horror, but to reassure them that life goes on. And it does, for many. But the stories of the people, the families, the communities, have barely been told. The Way of Water eloquently shows the love people of the Gulf have for family, for their personal history, for their waters and their home. It shows how strongly they are tied to place, in a world that is otherwise mobile and often disconnected from place. It makes us aware of what has been lost, and what is in jeopardy. The play is beautiful, stark, and often harsh, much like a landscape that has been made frightening for those who once were rocked gently by its waves.
During our panel discussion after the reading, an audience member asked if I was an optimist. I do not know. I do know this; I believe in resilience. I believe in the resilience of the warm Gulf waters, the marsh grasses that spring to life from any newly formed land, the birds that return undaunted, though not unharmed, to nest on islands obliterated by hurricanes and fouled by toxic oil. But I also recognize fragility. Ecosystems right themselves, unless the assault they face is too great. Bodies heal themselves, bird populations rebound, communities come together. But there is a threshold beyond which hurt cannot be healed, in bodies, populations, communities, ecosystems. I work hopefully, supporting at-risk bird populations to help them recover from recent losses. I am grateful for the work of others, like panelist Marylee Orr, who support the fishers and other families who are trying to recover from the assault on their health. And I take heart from the work of Caridad Svich, who is trying to keep the needs of our Gulf and her residents in the hearts of people around the world. With enough time, enough support, and the right resources, perhaps that healing will come, on so many levels. Perhaps that hope makes me an optimist.Tags: The Way of Water Blog PostsWay of Water
By Henry Godinez, Resident Artistic Associate, Goodman Theatre, Chicago
[This introduction is published in the subscription-based, industry-aimed new play e-book platform StageReads LLC founded by Meredith Lynsey Schade and Jody Christopherson. StageReads launches the week of 9 July 2012 with publication of Caridad Svich’s The Way of Water. This introduction is reprinted with Henry Godinez’s permission. For more information about StageReads pls visit http://www.stagereads.com]
In the United States, in this age of 24 hour news networks, the shelf life of even a major disaster is somewhere between that of fresh fish and a gallon of milk. Unless of course that fish comes from the Gulf of Mexico, in which case it could last much longer, like say, a good sex scandal. Without the luxury of being able to count on the scrupulous nature of mainstream American journalism alone to keep pivotal events alive in our collective memory, the only sure way to chronicle our mistakes of the past in order to prevent their return in the future is to enshrine them in art. Fortunately such is the case with the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, which is now lovingly and movingly enshrined Caridad Svich’s searing new play The Way of Water.
The BP oil spill remains the worst marine drilling disaster in our nation’s history, gushing nearly five million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico and devastating thousands of miles of fragile wetlands, beaches and commercial fishing areas. After two years, too many questions remain unanswered, though it is evident that negligence due to cost cutting efforts on the part of BP was certainly at the heart of the accident, which also incidentally, killed eleven men when their Deepwater Horizon platform exploded. Two years later scientists are beginning to see the lasting effects of the spill in an alarming number of mutated fish, crabs and shrimp, while dolphin and whales continue to be found dead at almost double the normal rate.
Within that all too brief network news worthy shelf life of the BP oil disaster, there was time to speculate about the economic ramifications; the cost of lost revenue to the fishing and vacation industries, property values, and even the cost of gas at the pump. There was the occasional tugging at the heart strings story about the after effects of the spill on the coastal areas and the wildlife, the now all too common televised scenes of volunteers scrubbing water fowl covered in thick crude oil. But rarely is a disaster like the BP oil spill sexy enough to have a shelf life that allows for the consideration of its long term effects on human beings. Then again it could simply be that my more cynical self contemplates the possibility that some nefarious and hugely powerful unseen group of select individuals simply maneuver it that way, after all, that would be bad for business. The disaster may have vanished from the headlines and the airwaves but the after effects are ominously still in the water and slowly rising to the surface.
Skepticism and paranoia aside, it nonetheless remains the task of the artist to, as Hamlet says, “hold as ‘twere the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time, his form and pressure.” In The Way of Water, Caridad Svich holds a powerful human mirror up to reflect the less glamorous edges of society. Not one that reflects the images of wealthy landowners along the coast whose stretches of pristine sand beaches and multimillion dollar vacation homes have been degraded by tar balls, but the average working class people whose livelihoods and very lives are compromised by their dependence on water contaminated by dispersants which linger long after the crude oil is no longer visible. It is a play about four friends who are as much a part of their particular environment and the nature that has sustained it, as those wildfowl that wash up encased in crude oil.
The play delicately evokes the image of common man Jimmy Robichaux, a fishing man from way back, and his struggle to simply carve out an honorable living around the waters that have nurtured his family for generations. He is a beautifully drawn, profoundly human character, wrestling with old ways and new demons. Jimmy’s personal struggles are manifested so honestly within the larger context of the BP oil spill that the play never feels like an indictment, at least not in the moment. This is a play about a group of friends just trying to get by in a world whose promises and dreams have all passed them by. It is also a play about taking action, about realizing that sometimes just speaking out can make a difference. But the play’s great strength lies in its humanity.
Having grown up in the south, in Texas, Alabama and Louisiana, I know the ring of authenticity in a true southerner when I hear it. I know the sounds, the idiosyncratic choice of words, the tempos. More importantly, I know the sound of humility and honor in a southern voice and in all these case, Caridad has clearly done her homework and created characters that ring true. Certainly honor is not an exclusively southern trait but in my experience, in the south it is a trait that is not exclusive to class or wealth either. This inherent, passionate, stubborn adherence to honor is one of the most compelling and integral motivating factors in The Way of Water. It is the rope at the center of the characters’ personal tug-a-wars, it is at the center of the conflict of the play, the very thing in each of the characters, but especially in Jimmy, that drives them to act. It is an essence that Caridad has made painfully real.
Many a great play has been written about corporate negligence and devastating catastrophes but what makes The Way of Water so compelling is the way it exposes the after effects of such sensational events in the most real of human terms. Given the way our society seems content to turn a blind eye to the huge power of corporate financial influence, as made evident for instance in the Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, it must remain the task of the artist to sound the alarm bell when long term profits take precedence over the seemingly short life of a man. Yet at its best, theatre must be more than a political or social protest. For Hamlet’s intention I’m sure was not just to show “the age and body of the time, his form and pressure”, but to actually instigate change. The Way of Waterdoes that very effectively as all good art does, by representing humanity so truthfully and universally that we cannot help but see ourselves at the center of the story.Tags: The Way of Water Blog PostsWay of Water
by Tifini Pust
In a few weeks ago, Main Street Theatre and four local actors from Houston Texas brought to life the latest script by Caridad Svich, The Way of the Water. In the script we are introduced to four locals living in the gulf just after the BP Oil Spill. I was familiar with the writings of Ms. Svich and had attended a writer’s workshop of hers Arizona State University in 2008. I was very much looking forward to hearing the script and was delighted to be asked to facilitate the talkback.
This script and the characters in it were especially impactful here in Houston, Texas. Working as I have for the last three years in Environmental Education, I was thrilled to see the arts taking on the struggle of creating a dialogue of unheard or untold stories. The actors were brilliantly present in the lives of Svich’s characters. Several people commented after the show that they were not prepared for the emotions of this piece. They were not prepared for the suffering. Ms. Svich has created a beautiful comment on the juxtaposition played in the lives of those who live near and are deeply affected by the Gulf.
While listening I was pulled in to the lives of the characters, the shape and colors of their world. I felt their frustration and connection to the land. Houston is thirty five miles from the Gulf. When asked, the audience associated the term “the gulf” with “home.” I believe the imagery of the characters losing their home was not missed by this “petro/metro” bustling metropolis. We’re all closer to the Gulf then we realize. I believe it is this connection that led to such a passionate performance and such a lively talk back. This play took place, for us, literally in our backyard and the audience was ready to talk about it!
One of our panelists, distinguished activist and local Houstonian Bryan Parras, of TEJAS, saw amazing parallels to his own personal life. Bryan has been protesting BP and working on environmental issues here in Houston for decades. He shared some of his personal reflections and acknowledged the emotional connections he had with the script. Bryan hoped that the audience would be sparked by this story to be active in our own community lives. Many people commented that they hope to see changes in our cities and new ways to support the Gulf.
In my opinion, The Way of the Water perfectly captures the struggles of most any gulf community. The passage that resonated with me most, and with many audience members was the poetry passage just before the second act in which Jimmie discusses the dolphins and the similarities of fates between our species. Also, Jimmie at one point mentions his father and how “the fear was all inside him.” That line resonated with me on many levels, because I believe it is true that we, as a society, are ruled by fear. We fear the thought of a game changing decision, like ending subsidies, because we have worked for so long with subsidies in our system. Jimmie and Rosalie are afraid of the unknown, of speaking up and being heard, but our society at large will forever live in fear until we embrace new balances and efforts. Here in Houston our entire employment foundation is monopolized by the oil and gas companies. Children living in the ship channel are fifty six times more likely to have leukemia, and yet we continue to choose jobs over health simply because we fear the thought of losing our jobs if we regulate pollution. If we hold people accountable. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, but we Houstonians continue to believe that it does, for fear of the unknown. I love the thought of Jimmie making a sign and attending a protest, but I hate that it took him getting to the point of having “nothing to lose” in order for him to take action. I hate it, but it’s the truth and Caridad Svich captures that ironic truth in a hard-hitting and “ground-truthing” way unlike any I’ve heard before.
The Way of Water by Caridad Svich was read at Main Street Theatre on April 30th, 2012, directed by Rob Kimbro.Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts
A reflection on the NoPassport reading scheme for The Way of Water from April 3 through June 4, 2012
by Caridad Svich
In the waning twilight of a late spring day, I shift through programs, notes, blog posts, and digital photos, audio and video files that are now the living archive of a seven week, 50 reading, and global reading scheme for my play The Way of Water. Old drafts, interim drafts and current drafts of the script sit in a folder on my laptop. Each draft bears memories of multiple actors’ voices and bodies, locations of performance and the intangible sparks of feeling that coursed through audiences at any given presentation. “Passion” is the word that keeps rising to the surface, as I listen to an audio recording of the June 2nd reading by the Off the Hyphen theatre company at the Red Shoes centre in Baton Rouge, Louisiana directed by Eric Mayer-Garcia. Raw passion and the sheer nerve of actors meeting the text for the first time and making bold choices before an audience is felt even across the low-grade transmission of an mp3 file.
This same kind of passion is, in a sense, what spurred the implementation of this reading scheme: a dare, a shout, a desire to connect, a willingness to risk – even while being in the middle of an artistic process with the text – for the sake of raising awareness toward ongoing health and environmental concerns in the US Gulf region, and to commemorate also the loss of lives (avian, plant, marine, animal and human) during the Deepwater Horizon disaster and its aftermath. For me, the play’s meaning has begun to shift, as the scheme has progressed over the last seven weeks. It has started to define itself more and more as a piece that looks at the fragility of human beings as they struggle with the face of imminent poverty, and in so doing, struggle too to find ways to resist social and economic “invisibility” and thereby, somehow, effect small measures of change in their world.
Long, crowded hours have filled a fruitful time spent wearing administrative, logistical and creative hats these past several weeks. Most of the time the process has been one of sheer invention - making it up as we go along – and the risk of it all has been thrilling to be a part of and to witness, as I engaged in a variety of virtual and live conversations with colleagues from Kitchener-Waterloo in Canada to Tasmania (Australia) about how to allow the play to co-exist and live, even in a one-day reading, within immediately local and global contexts in its many and varied presentations. The by-the-bootstraps aspect of this un-commissioned, un-funded international endeavor has been somewhat of a fascinating lesson, for me, about how to defy the more conventional apparatuses set up within the theatre industry in regards to new play development.
Although the implementation of the scheme did not begin necessarily with the goal of upsetting an existing paradigm, which is rooted in a reading to reading to workshop structure within fairly protected halls of practice, the fact remains that by this scheme’s end, it has become increasingly clear to me that a different proposition has been enacted: one that perhaps follows the demo or rough cut method in the music industry. If I were to consider the draft of The Way of Water that was read on April 3rd at the launch of the scheme with ScriptWorks and Hyde Park Theatre in Austin, Texas, as the defacto “demo,” the evolution of the scheme in tandem with the script’s – especially through a significant studio retreat at the Lark Play Development Center in New York City in mid April 2012 – has resulted in a variety of evolving performance “demos” that have been played live and virtually (through The Way of Water video project produced by EAST LA REP and the live-streamed readings in Sao Paolo, Berlin and Houston) in front of incredibly disparate and diverse groups of audiences around the world in order to transform by the time of the June 4th, 2012 reading at Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago into what could be deemed a first recording or (in industry terms) a pre-production draft.
The variety of accents, actor and director choices, size and shape of indoor and outdoor venues chosen for presentation, aesthetic languages (in and out of translation), and levels of theatrical experience that have engaged with the script and have been a vital and democratic part of the lateral enterprise of putting the script in motion have placed me in a rather unique position in relationship to the material. In effect, what usually takes several production experiences to figure out, has been wildly compacted as a result of the intensive time frame of this reading scheme – a time frame determined by the activist impulse that initiated it to begin with (marking the two year anniversary of the BP oil spill disaster).
I’m not suggesting that this reading scheme should be a new paradigm, but what I posit is that each script needs to find its own distinct way to develop. There isn’t and shouldn’t be one overriding model. If you listen to a play close enough, hard enough, it may indeed tell you how it wants to be born and also how it wants to grow up (or not grow up, as the case may be) in the big wide world. Plays are living entities. They have heartbeats, even if they’re mere signs on a page. They have a way of being, and as such, it is possible to consider that rather than adopting one model –one size fits all – for the development of new plays, one could adopt multiple models, change them, make them, upend them, subvert them, etc. depending on the nature of the play itself. Could our industry – our field – find ways to adapt, make room, and create space for the shifting natures of plays?
It could be argued that my dramaturgical team (Heather Helinsky and R. Alex Davis), NoPassport theatre alliance and I sent The Way of Water into the world with this reading scheme unprotected. This is true. But if theatre-making is about risk, should the act of engagement of a theatre piece with an audience be stripped of risk altogether? Often, new plays receive a handful of readings – closed and open – as they find their way to the stage, if they ever do. The reading circuit is in part geared toward test-driving the play, under, I would say, false circumstances: a play is not meant to be merely read but to be performed. A reading is not a performance. It is a hybrid act of presentation. Nothing more. An in-the-moment, rehearsed or cold (unrehearsed) encounter with signs and markings on a page. The first reading of a musical score would be the equivalent analogy, except that the scores of plays are much more slippery to read due to the limitations and inexactitudes of language itself as opposed to musical notation.
In the case of The Way of Water, the first reading of the musical score – a musical score in evolution, mind you – was multiplied by fifty. Consider: 200 actors have now read the four roles in this play. 125 quartets, in other words, have had the chance to bring their musicality, instrumentality, sensitivity, craft and skill to bear upon the work. At most venues, there were upwards of 40 audience members or more. So, that’s about 2000 people that have witnessed first readings of the score.
Therefore, the risk was not in sharing the work with known and unknown collaborators across many waters and continents, but rather in sustaining the very fragility of the text in the hands of so many, and allowing this fragility to find shape, breath, and voice. As different actors and directors at varying levels of experience took the script on for a day or two (in some cases), what began to emerge were strands of consistency in choices made, and the ability of the text to find its freedom as well. As I added and cut lines, and old and new drafts were read back to back (on occasion), my very process as a writer was exposed to audiences, perhaps unbeknownst to them. The fact that I could add lines or reshape scenes for a reading in Santa Fe and then a week later hear the old draft in Boston and the “new” draft in Columbus meant that I could re-test the score of the play and , in effect reposition it depending on given collaborators and audiences. It was like hearing different verses and refrains of a song in quick succession - the rough cut, the demo, the second demo, and so on – and be able to “replay,” shuffle and repeat until the score began to sing the way it needed and wanted to sing. The risk of it all was and is everything.
By no means do I consider the play to be fixed in time and space, but I think that the choice, and the choices emboldened by my collaborators in this scheme, to open the play to a variety of audiences under a variety of circumstances has allowed the play to continue to breathe. Mind you, I did not expect to have fifty readings in a seven week period. At most, I thought maybe ten venues might wish to join hands across the water into the play’s world and the artivist impulse that spurred it into being and take a little breath, and dive in without a tether line. This was an experiment, after all. Numbers were not a part of it. Only the passion of the intention to engage with communities through art-making. But as the number of venues and therefore collaborators grew, the possibilities of watching the play evolve, quite figuratively, before my eyes, and the ability to play with those possibilities outside of what would normally be the situation of being in a practice hall became a lesson unto itself – one I certainly had not expected, and for which, I am inordinately grateful to the many collaborators who have left their imprint upon the work, especially in the dialogue that has occurred before the readings themselves and after through our project blog and through individual emails and live conversations. It’s that story told late at night after rehearsal or that anecdote shared on the fly in the middle of a ten minute break or the thoughts written over the wires that have become the “companion” text to The Way of Water and to its lived experience.
As the scheme has now drawn to an end - although the play is only now, ironically, making its way into the hierarchical script-vetting machine of the theatre industry - I am still sorting through and gathering – woolgathering, in fact – the musings and gleanings of audiences, actors, directors who have taken a day or two out of their lives to encounter the play over the last seven weeks. Some collaborators have seemingly vanished into the night. The busy-ness of life taken over. Others have continued to share stories, and open up about their processes as artists, and others still have continued to relay how they want to find new ways of making theatre and inviting audiences into a shared experience, even if it is at the level of the first reading of a score.
While there are many more thoughts swirling through my mind about the long-term damage to the eco-system because of the disaster, the continued “debate” over fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline, and the unstable economic conditions in which so many of our fellow citizens live (a condition with which that as a freelance artist I am all too familiar), I will leave for now with this thought, which has to do with the mixture of care and abandon demanded in the creation of any piece of art, and the equivalent care and abandon that is demanded of its embodiment and interpretation: If one believes art is not product, but rather something quite else, something not consumable, something, in essence, both fragile yet strong (able to cross, to break open, to find its way into the heart and sometimes the soul), then is it possible to believe that art, in its most fragile state, its state of flux whilst making, can still effect change? Isn’t bearing witness to change in and of itself the beginning of transformation?
---Caridad Svich. 8 June 2012. For further reading see: "Obie Award Winner Caridad Svich on her Deepwater Horizon Play" on the Huffington Post, 22 May 2012 and "An Environment for Change" on TCGCircle.Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts
A reflection on Opera del Espacio theatre company’s radical riff of the play.
By Courtney Ryan
On April 17th 2012, the Los Angeles-based experimental theatre company Opera del Espacio performed a minimalist extraction of Caridad Svich’s play The Way of Water. The piece, staged outdoors at California State University, Los Angeles, compresses Svich’s 100 page play into a 50 minute high-speed “reading” that includes choreography set to a fragmented audio recording of the text. Although the company strips the play of much of its dialogue and characterization, it nonetheless highlights the pervasive environmental injustice critiqued within The Way of Water.
The piece begins with two men rapidly reading the first scene of the play, which takes place between the fishermen Jimmy and Yuki. The performers’ words overlap and truncate each other, while indistinguishable white noise further fragments the men’s conversation. A few phrases are uttered repeatedly and more slowly than the rest, and, hence, stand out from the otherwise high-speed performance. Echoed lines like “No use complaining,” “Stinks,” and “That’s the way it goes” serve to boil the scene down to its simplest iteration. As the men tersely converse, three female performers walk the stage’s perimeter carrying buckets full of oil. Wearing bright, orange rubber gloves and pinnies, the women clinically relocate the oil from one side of the stage to the other, metaphorically from one part of the ocean to another. The buckets of oil, only feet away from the audience, remain visible throughout the performance, and, thus, act as a constant, material reminder of the BP oil spill and its effects.
In the scenes that follow, the dialogue, largely prerecorded, becomes increasingly disjointed and incoherent. The recording is a dissonant musical score, its rapid text layered with various sounds like crackling, white noise, and—at one point—heartbeats, all of which complements the largely abstract physical movement. Certain words and phrases are echoed, slowed, and emphasized, strategically cutting through the otherwise frenetic, inchoate dialogue; since the aural pace is generally chaotic, the rare moments of stillness within the text and the movement offer contrastingly sharp clarity. For instance, the stage direction “A moment” is repeated throughout the piece, particularly when Jimmy cannot stop trembling. These moments of pause, juxtaposed with the piece’s perpetual speed, highlight the grave effects the spill has had on Jimmy. The aural slowing is matched by a physical slowing, during which the performers take off their gloves and begin placing them neatly on a prostrate, shaking Jimmy. As he shakes, the other characters form a trembling cluster around him, suggesting that it is not just Jimmy who is sick.
This hint at a collective contamination is fully realized in the piece’s final minutes, in which audience members are invited to pour the buckets of oil on the performers, now stripped down to their undergarments. Once the actors are completely doused in oil, performers in hazmat suits wrap plastic sheeting around them. The piece ends with the oiled actors beginning to suffocate as yellow Caution tape is repeatedly roped around their plastic enclosure. Thus, just as Caridad Svich emphasizes the toxicity of an entire ecosystem—humans, animals, water, and land—so too does Opera del Espacio. Although the company’s minimalist extraction of The Way of Water is quite a departure from the play, it nonetheless conveys Svich’s central message that environmental injustice affects every organism, not just an unfortunate few.Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts
The Way of Water by Caridad Svich is a complex and compelling exploration into the BP oil spill in Louisiana, The play tears at the heart as it reveals the horrors of the disaster. By exposing the terrible toll that such waste reeks not just on the environment but also on human lives, the play digs beneath the surface to unearth the 'oily, slick and sinister' toxicity that coats psychic landscapes as well as physical ones. By centering the action around two couples whose lives are intertwined in both conscious and unconscious ways, Svich allows their anger and frustration and fear and helplessness to erupt in impassioned exchanges that can be both deeply wounding and healing, thus adding to the impact of the traumatic event that has already shaken their lives. She has avoided sermonizing and instead embraced the human condition in a very recognizable and soulful way. Brava!
Elizabeth Hess www.elizabethhess.net Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts
by Claudia Acosta
The Way of the Water introduces two simple southern, American fishermen holding patiently for the day’s loot on a lake by the gulf. This town in the Plaquemines Parish of Louisiana is small. New sudden deaths and sickness haunt the town as its people are being poisoned by the chemicals in the water. Their wives are doing the best they can by their sides until Jimmy Robichaux’s mysterious symptoms can no longer be ignored. The friendship of the two couples runs long and deep. His wife, Rosalie finds strength in her ways and in their loyal friends Neva and Yuki Skow, expecting their first child while managing an alcoholic past. This friendship and their bonds as men and wives live as the heart of the story in a tragic time when the gulf, ravaged by the historic BP oil spill in 2010 has left a deadly aftermath against a fledgling south barely recovering from hurricanes, chemical devastation and sheer poverty.
Ensemble Studio Theatre‘s staged reading at Memberfest on May 29, 2012 resonated truth with delicate but compelling and compassionate fervor accomplished by a seasoned cast. Under the tight direction of Jose Zayas, Caitlin McDonough-Thayer bubbled as the resilient and tenacious Rosalie; Elizabeth Rich as Neva, Yuki’s wife, was the calm and steady water for them all. Actors, A.Z. Kelsey and Bobby Plasencia created lively buoyancy to each other’s opposing personalities, balancing each other as the fiery but ailing Jimmy Robichaux and the gold-hearted and loyal Yuki Gonzalo Skow. As the poisoned water leaks into their lives eating away at their living and futures, a protest against the cause of it all surfaces in their own ways testing bonds and proving how love and friendship can help endure the most difficult of times.
Not unlike, The Grapes of Wrath which details a tragic history of an American family surviving the Great Depression; Caridad Svich writes a play that paints a moving and relevant portrait of a community, a family, a bond of friendship that struggles to fight against a very present danger of our ecosystem being destroyed by an irresponsible oil industry. The gulf is dying and the treatments are not cleaning the disaster, but bring with it an epidemic of sickness and poverty gone unnoticed in our current media. This window into the lives of people surviving the gulf disaster proves we have forgotten and we have not come far in bringing justice to the lives affected by negligence of a powerful industry. Caridad Svich’s The Way of the Water is a story of urgent matter, justice, love and the strength of the human spirit against all odds here in the United States. It is a true American drama of this decade.Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts
by Zac Kline, playwright, bookwriter, and screenwriter
Something magical happens. Yes, there’s the magic of a man spewing fish from his mouth as the lights go down on Act One. There’s the magic of the beautiful language that comes from the four characters on stage as if pouring directly from their hearts, and the magic of people holding fast to a belief that this country can change, and that they can change this country. But the real magic, the true magic comes from honesty. Caridad Svich’s The Way of Water is one of the most honest pieces of theatre I have seen in a long time. It is honest in that it chronicles a place in flux and a people in flux and honest in that its characters are hurt by life, and hurt by love and when faced with a choice - stay or travel to different waters - the path ahead is rough either way.
By my estimation no one lies in The Way of Water. Characters say they are not sick, when they are, characters say they have had breakfast, when they have not. But they just say the little things that get us through the day, or from one hour to the next, but they do not cloak the truth in untruth. Characters speak: We don't have medical insurance ... There’s only five dollars in the house. That's pain. That’s the truth of life without recourse. That’s raw. That’s real. That’s what we don’t see enough of on our stages. We teach our young playwrights, “show don’t tell,” and maybe that’s true a decent bit of the time, but what The Way of Water does is something special because it shows us these four characters, as they’re living, how they’re living, but it tells us to cling fast to hope, to protest, to keep struggling just to struggle through another day.
Leaving EST I could not help wonder if the four characters knew Stephen Foster’s great American hymn Hard Times. ... “Hard Times, hard times, come again no more” … If they sing it to themselves as they fall asleep at night, if they quietly hum it driving out of town. I caught a reference to a Foster disciple Bob Dylan’s song, “Don't Think Twice, It’s All Right” at the end of the play, but was reminded of another Dylan lyric from much later in his career. In a 2001 song Summer Days Dylan wrote:
Standing by God’s river, my soul is beginnin’ to shake
Standing by God’s river, my soul is beginnin’ to shake
I’m countin’ on you love, to give me a break
The four characters in The Way of Water are doing just that: counting on love, counting on hope, counting on American to give them a break. The water is their life, the town is their life, America is their life, love is their love and they all have let them down, and all inspire them in some broken way to keep going. As Leonard Cohen would say, “There's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in,” and as that crack gets larger and larger, that is how the lights gets in, all the more light. That light? That’s theatre, that's truth, that’s honesty, that's the way of water.
The Way of Water by Caridad Svich was read at Ensemble Studio Theatre on May 29th, directed by Jose Zayas.
Zac Kline is a playwright, bookwriter and screenwriter. He has several full-length plays in development. Future projects include: A multimedia project and non-fiction book on the works of Bob Dylan in connection with the American legal system.Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts
By Eric Mayer-García, director
After I first met Caridad Svich at the NoPassport Conference in April, it was not long before she told me about her new play, The Way of Water and its international reading scheme to raise awareness about the ongoing health crisis facing people on the Gulf Coast. Coming from LSU, and being based in Baton Rouge, I immediately knew that I had to do everything I could to organize a reading in Louisiana. In such an impromptu undertaking, it is difficult to discover how some can be completely unresponsive to a call to action that seems obviously necessary. However, it is much more inspiring to find allies for such a cause, in both new and old places.
I found a new ally, not in a local theatre, but in The Red Shoes, an organization dedicated to women's personal and spiritual growth. The Red Shoes donated space to our group (Off the Hyphen) for the reading because Executive Director Wendy Hershman understood the importance of the play reading; not only because of the play's international attention, but because she recognized that the play told a story that many members of our local community were longing to hear. Through the board members and associates of The Red Shoes, we were able to connect with many of the conservationists, environmentalists, and activists who responded to the oil spill. Two of these professionals participated as respondents in the post play discussion, Melanie Driscoll, Director of Bird Conservation of the National Audubon Society, and Marylee Orr, Executive Director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network. They shared reflections on the play from their experience in responding to the unprecedented use of dispersants, like Corexit, and witnessing its effects on the environment and Gulf Coast communities.
I also found allies in the group of actors comprised of students, alumni, and faculty from the LSU community: Eddie Gamboa, Michael Mentz, Nikki Nadkarni, Solimar Otero, and Mercedes Wilson. When working on Svich's play we were first struck that the story of four people from Plaquemines parish could speak so clearly to many pressing issues in the US today, as it addresses under employment, lack of access to healthcare, and home foreclosure. These issues have contributed to a dilemma in the national psyche of the United States understood as the loss of a sense of security. The national dilemma here gives insight to the impact of trauma conveyed in the play, as the characters' sense of security washes away. This resonated deeply with Melanie Driscoll as a real effect of the oil spill, which she has noticed in local fisherman. Perhaps, the most powerful aspect of the play is that it provides a forum to discuss this latent and intangible crisis in Louisiana's costal communities. Finally, since people present at the reading understood the lasting repercussions of mass displacement from New Orleans and elsewhere after the 2005 hurricanes, Rosalie and Jimmy's final departure poignantly confronted our audience with the erosion of the cultural fabric in Southern Louisiana, in this case, through the demise of a way of life of coastal fisherman.
Presenting this reading of The Way of Water was a moving experience for everyone present. It gave those of us who were not already involved a remarkable platform to take action by marking, remembering, naming the unnamed, and raising our collective voice for those who have been left "unwhole" by BP's abusive and uncivil actions. It is so inspiring to see theatre be such a platform, albeit that this is exactly what theatre should be more often than it is not.
The Way of Water by Caridad Svich was read on June 2nd, 2012 at The Red Shoes in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts
by Lisa Campbell, director
When I first was introduced to The Way of Water, I was completely unaware to the depth and impact the project would have. I knew The Way of Water would commemorate the 2 year anniversary of the oil spill, and I knew the play would be read across the country in April. When I read the script, I started to understand its potential impact. The actors and I (as director) started researching the lasting effects of the spill. We explored the background of the play and we approached the characters with the understanding that they could be real people. Although we are all students in a college in New York City, through our work with the script and outside research, we all came to understand the truth and relevance of their characters and their situation.
After brainstorming a bit with Ms. Svich and the Barnard Theater Department, I decided to include a panel discussion with the reading. Thus, we expanded the project to include those not just involved in theater, but involved in the scientific research of the spill. For our final reading, we were so lucky to be joined by Dr. Timothy Crone who had used video image analysis to estimate the rate that oil was leaking from the damaged well and determine the total amount of oil released. His early estimates were ten times higher than official estimates in the first few weeks of the incident. Eventually, government estimates increased to confirm the higher flow rates. We were also lucky to be joined by Ms. Svich for our panel discussion and reading. Thus, after a reading of the first act of the play, we held a discussion about the spill, inspiration for the project, and where we can go from here. Bringing together the theatrical and scientific elements of the project was illuminating for everyone involved in the production as well as the audience.
All of the feedback I received from the audience was positive, and people told me that while enjoying themselves and being entertained, they also learned so much about the spill and they were left with lasting images and ideas. Our reading and panel started a conversation between the audience, actors, playwright, and scientists, and I'm confident that this conversation will be an ongoing one.
I was very lucky to be involved, and I am glad to see that we are able to make a change. I hope this is just the beginning.
The Way of Water by Caridad Svich was read at Barnard College on April 10th, 2012 at the Glicker-Milstein Theatre, directed by Lisa Campbell.Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts
by Michael Thomas Walker, Producer
We gathered on April 29 at Mile Square Theatre in Hoboken to present a reading of Caridad Svich's The Way of Water. Though the audience was small, the words that were spoken were mighty. The actors, all Rutgers students, gave great performances. All involved, Landon Woodsen, Abraham Makany, Lacy J. Dunn, and Blaire Brooks under the direction of Melissa Firlit, brought the characters to life and at times evoked audible gasps from the audience. Because Caridad Svich teaches playwriting at Rutgers, we students felt compelled to join in her "scheme" to have her play read world wide in the month of April. As an added bonus we had David Hughes, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers, join us for talk back after the show. His insight into the global affects of the BP oil spill were enlightening. We were scheduled to have twenty minute talk back and ended up staying much later into the evening because of the questions and interest from the audience. In short, the reading was a huge success and provided a great opportunity for Rutgers students to participate in this world wide event.
The Way of Water by Caridad Svich was read at Mile Square Theatre on April 29th, 2012, directed by Melissa Firlit.Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts
by Marilo Nunez, Artistic Director
When Caridad Svich asked Alameda Theatre Company to be part of the international reading scheme for her play The Way of Water, I was honoured and immediately jumped at the chance. I was interested in bringing environmental awareness to the forefront and in creating alliances with Latin American writers outside of Canada.I delved into the research. I immediately connected to the world that Caridad had created and specifically to the four central characters, Jimmy, Rosalie, Yuki and Neva. Reading accounts of the health, ecological and environmental realities these people faced everyday made my stomach turn. I read and re-read the play and every time I did, my heart opened up to these four complex and human characters more and more. I began to feel their rage, their pain, and their frustration. We needed to inhabit these characters so that our audiences could feel the humanity of these people, feel the impact of the destruction. I was driven to bring awareness to us as Canadians about the force the environmental spill had (and is having) not only on the people who live “over there”, but on all of us. We need not look south to understand the impact the oil industry is having on the environment. The Way of Water is a political call to action. The four actors who volunteered their time, Michelle Arvizu, Karl Ang, Andrew Moodie and Cherisa Richards, delved wholeheartedly into the play. Something magical happened as they began to read the words aloud. We were present and open to having the full force of these people come alive in the theatre and in our hearts. The power of their voices was palpable and we were all moved to tears. (And I hope to action.) I felt, without a doubt, that Caridad had created a bleak world with a defined sense of hope. Hope for the future of the people who were (and are) directly affected by the event. And hope for the rest of us. There was a will, the will of the people and of the human spirit to create a world where we listen to one another, support and fight for each other’s right to live free of pain, distrust and anger. It was one of the best play readings that I had ever been involved in. And I thank Caridad for giving Alameda Theatre Company the chance to be able to be involved in an important international political experience. I now want to be more involved in making people aware of the environmental concerns here in Canada. The tar sands and the pipelines that are currently destroying our natural resources, and our environment are areas that we as Canadians should be talking about more honestly. Here are some very disturbing facts (from Tarsandswatchatch.org):
Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts
by Daniel Wilcox, actor
As an actor, quickly assembled readings are a way to work your instrument- making quick choices, connecting with actors you haven't been rehearsing with for long and trusting your impulses. While reading for the role of Jimmy in The Way of Water was another opportunity to keep my engine up and running, what made this particular experience unique was not so much my own work but more about where we were reading and for whom-- a theatre in London with a small but engaged mostly English crowd, whose experience with the BP catastrophe, let alone the backdrop of American back country and its complexities, were somewhat new.
During the break between parts I and II a cheery Englishman amusingly asked "what's a Hot Pocket?" in reference to the dialogue exchanged by the characters over the sad reality of that night's dinner. As fellow American and actor/director Bryony Thompson and I chuckled and explained to him that it was comparable to a cornish pasty in the U.K, it wasn't until afterwards that this small exchange with a friendly and curious foreigner made me realize how important this play is. The Hot Pocket question encompassed the importance of this experience---this was not just a play reading, this was an opportunity to give another culture some knowledge of our own and further expose the TRUTH--that big idea that is often covered like the gulf fish in the sludge of that terrible spill. As a citizen I was blown away by the dramaturgy behind Caridads Svich's writing because as much as I knew about the BP spill, I realized how much information has been unsaid, even left out--namely the lives ruined in the creole community by the dispersant used during clean-up. This then was a chance for another part of the world to see, and I think we achieved that as people talked afterwards about how informative the facts behind the story were.
It was honor to read for Jimmy, a character who to me represents the complexity of America--its people, its politics, its cynicism, hope, corruption. He is all of us, the good and the bad, the occupier and the dutiful soldier, the fighter, the defeated. And that's the way it is. No morality tale here, just the truth in all its misery and hope. I came in to this project as an actor looking to work his stuff, I left feeling like I had part in letting people in on the truth of a dire situation, a small victory, but a start.
The Way of Water by Caridad Svich was read at the Rosemary Branch Theatre in London on May 13th, 2012.
Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts
by Ric Oquita
As a longtime admirer of Caridad’s work, I felt especially honored to have participated as an actor, portraying Jimmy, in the Berlin reading at the English Theatre directed by Jake Whitlen and accompanied by actors Nichola MacEvilly, Seamus Sargent and Katharina Sporrer.
It was an intense experience, given our roughly seven hours rehearsal together. We began with a conversation about the details of the oil spill, the aftermath and the current situation, to get a better understanding of its dreadful impact on the lives of the characters.
We read through the script, focusing primarily on keeping the images and humor in the text vivid. I was particularly interested in tracking when characters were taking a stand, withdrawing or vascillating from one moment to the next in regards to staying quiet or speaking out against the “Big Pigs”.
We had some time again to get on our feet and explore the physical life of the story. As a dancer, this is where I began to feel the language come alive and the ever present water and heat inform the musicality in the text. I kept the depths and impulses of the water close to me as Jimmy’s illness begins to surface and reveal itself physically.
My father was also very close to me in the process. I chose to draw on my father’s struggle with the onset of dementia as he fights to hold on to his memories, which often reveal themselves in dreams while he is awake. I see Jimmy also as a strong man fighting to hold on to his memories in a culture where amnesia is often celebrated.
40 people or so came out for the event. native German speakers for the most part who I felt were listening very intently to the story. Once the audience had gotten used to our voices and the richness of the text, their laughter came easily, especially after our intermission.
It also felt like, after intermission, we all felt the stakes burning in the room. There were moments of intense quiet, almost as if the audience was holding their collective breath, when everyone realized what was being lost. That happened for me anytime Jimmy surveyed the water and his property.
After the last moment, when Jimmy decides to protest, there was a breath and then a long, sustained applause from the audience. I'm certain actors in other readings felt the same lift in that last moment. It was joyous.
We were pleased with the reading and also felt a definite longing to live with the play longer. I wonder how the actors in other readings responded to that longing. For myself, the play went deep and my body needed a couple of days to recover from the experience. I feel that it has touched the actorvist in me, which I'd suspected had gone the way of water. It's been envigorating following postings from other participants on this blog. Thank you Caridad for your vision and for honoring, so eloquently, the people of Plaquemines Parish.
The Way of Water by Caridad Svich was read on May 13th, 2012 at the English Theatre Berlin in Germany.Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts
For actors still working on The Way of Water, watch this video posted on LEAN's blog. Jorey Danos, a clean-up worked on Vessel of Opportunity during the BP oil spill, talks about the symptoms of his health problems and the Gulf Detox Project.
---from R. Alex Davis and Heather Helinsky, dramaturgs
L.E.A.N. is the Louisiana Environmental Action Network.Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts
by Francesca Spedalieri, PhD student in Theatre, Ohio State University
Dress rehearsal. A small room in Central Ohio.
Our Jimmy, Matthew Yde, charges in:
"Do you guys know what day it was yesterday?"
April 21, 2012.
The day after, two years ago.
"Memories like sieves in this country."
We borrowed Caridad's words to plead that we may not forget.
To take responsibility.
Because we can pull the breaks.
And stop. And rest. And start again.
Our thanks go to those who did not forget.
Who, every day, live what we have forgotten.
And to those who have the courage to pick up a sign and say
"Hear the people's wrath!"
The Way of Water by Caridad Svich was read at The Ohio State University on April 23rd, 2012, directed by Francesca Spedalieri, Ph.D. Student in Theatre. Cast: Jonathon Boyd, Ph.D. candidate in Theatre (Stage Directions), Alison Vasquez, MFA in Acting candidate (Rosalie), Matthew Yde, Ph.D. Theatre (Jimmy), Nicholas White, MFA in Creative Writing candiate (Yuki), Leela Singh, BA Theatre student (Neva).Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts