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.