My team approached the Way of Water essentially as a counter narrative. Accordingly, as we reconstructed Svich’s brutal portrayal of life in the margins, we had to deal first and foremost with why this story mattered to the now. Past suffering is not a justification for a work of art. To capture a moment of human betrayal cannot be our aim in recreating the voices of the voiceless. If we were simply to concentrate on the pain of the catastrophe, the story could not fulfill its full potential as combative truth to BP’s propaganda campaign. In fact, to emphasize the reality of the pain as opposed to the reality of the solution would be to play right into BP’s current narrative of the wound which is being remedied.
In other words, one of the primary struggles my team ran up against in promoting the event was getting past the pity party. Why is this the performance you need to see? Why is this going to be more than two hours of mourning? Yes it is very a human tragedy what happened. Yes, there are people who are still suffering and need help. But what needs to be elucidated, and what Svich pours all her considerable skills into proving, is that the problem is rooted too deep to focus on the pain. If there is a cancer, we can deduce the cancer from its symptoms, and yet without properly advocating surgery, all we do is acknowledge the impending demise of the patient.
My marketing designer Liz dropped a single jot of ink into the water and took a picture of it as it steadily split and insinuated itself into what was once clear. Pollution, thick and man-made turned the water a steady shade of purple as we snapped the pictures. Again and again the shutter click echoed across the still water becoming steadily infected at our hands. Was this a full circle in a sense? Re-publicizing the event? Washing infection through purity yet again?
Not by a long shot. This event is happening. This event is now and any perception that the water we swim in is clean and getting cleaner is a lie. In fact the infection is getting worse. As BP oil resumes and expands its offshore drilling, moving out of the bounds of our national jurisdiction but not far enough to distill the irreparable harm that would be done were the event to be repeated, the human priorities in the system are becoming clear.
This play was not a sit down. This play was a stand up. Thank you Caridad for tapping the potential of the grassroots theater, but as was the playwright’s intent, this is a seed for a larger conversation, and this grass roots network is just barely revving its wheels as a vehicle for social change.
---Jeffrey Freeman, Emerson College BA Theater Studies: Acting, Minor: Postcolonial Studies, Co-Founder/ Artistic Director of Atomic Age Theater Co
The Way of Water by Caridad Svich was read at Atomic Age Theater in collaboration with Emerson College and Emerson Peace and Social Justice on April 11th, 2012, directed by Jeffrey Freeman.