A History of Burning: An American Quartet by Caridad Svich
What makes an American Quartet?
The four plays presented in this collection, Guapa, The Way of Water, Spark and Hide Sky make up an American Quartet by Caridad Svich. They are individually and together a vibrant reflection on what it means to be living in America today. The plays struggle with, consider and challenge notions of race and class by putting a spotlight on the working poor – a group often neglected by mainstream theatre – and show that the struggle of these individuals is matched by their potential.
In these plays we have a single mom working hard to hold her patchwork family together, a fisherman who has lost the very waters he fishes in, a veteran trying to make sense of her life after the war, and a young woman who feels alienated by the very town in which she grew up. However, we also have a future soccer star with limitless potential, the beating heart of an activist, a young boxer who will do whatever it takes to succeed and a young woman who has faith that she can reconnect with her hometown, her family and even her faith.
These plays share a commonality of language. The characters speak in a vernacular that is specific to four regions of the United States, but also, their language is imbued with a poetry that is emblematic to all of Caridad’s work. It’s a way of speaking, but it’s also a way of seeing. Caridad knows and her characters know that there is poetry in the longing, heartache, struggle and the joy of the everyday, and these characters find that poetry, and it finds its way out of their mouths. It sometimes comes out as a whisper, sometimes as a scream, and often, in these four plays, as a song.
These are American plays, and as American plays, they are deeply rooted in American song. In each plays songs appear organically, often as characters reflect and try to make sense of the current state of their lives. The songs pull deeply from the great pool of American music: gospel, folk, ragtime, blues, Latin music, army cadences and other music that lays the foundation for American songs. In the songs that characters often call out to the world, the plays call out to each other. The way a character sings alone on stage seeking solace in Spark resonates when a character sings alone on stage seeking solace in Hide Sky. These are different plays in different places, but there is a connected musical bridge between them.
American history is the history of music: we sing in fields, in churches, in schools, in the back of bars, in the streets, in our houses, at our births, our weddings and our funerals. The songs in these plays often come from single voices, but remind us of the need to hear others and to be heard. The songs in all the plays, even the Army cadences in Spark have a prayer-like quality, asking for understanding, forgiveness, redemption, peace or a way to get back home.
The plays all center on the concept of home. Guapa is about building a home and also the need to leave home, The Way of Water is about having to leave home, when your home has changed and you can no longer stay there, Spark is about coming home, but then not knowing what home is anymore, and Hide Sky is about coming home and reclaiming what it means to be there on one’s own terms.
All four plays take place inside, or in front of a house – the American home. This is where we plant our roots, this is where we set up our lives – and in a struggle that we see exhibited in these plays – this is a safe haven that we have to fight to hold on to. All four homes in all four plays are a point of pride, but also a point of contention. In Guapa and Spark the families struggle to keep their homes, in The Way of Water, a home is lost to a mortgage and in Hide Sky a home is inherited after death, but at a great emotional cost. The property in each play is not just a house; it is a collection of lives. Whatever group of theatremakers is brave enough to stage these four plays in a full day of theatre could stage them on the same set, because, in a way, these are all the same house. Yes, of course Caridad gives us wonderful subtle differences between Texas and Louisiana and North Carolina and Florida, but she has also written four plays that are universally American – the house we all live in as a nation.
The plays are further linked by the idea of motion and rest. In Guapa there is the motion of athleticism and soccer, followed by the abrupt stillness of injury; in The Way of Water there is the movement of the water, the movement of fishing, and then the forced stillness of disease; in Spark there is the movement of a woman coming from war, the movement of her mind racing, and the stillness of her body and her spirit as she tries to reclaim her life, and the movement of her sister, a young boxer thrusting her fists in the air, trying to grab hold – or perhaps knock down – what’s hers in this world, and in Hide Sky there is the movement of a body from the living to the dead and the movement of rising up as a storm comes in.
The movement in each plays creates a dance and a tempest of water and bodies moving, of the struggle to get free and find a place of comfort. The plays of Caridad Svich are plays of action. The characters put out a call to their family members, their lovers, and most importantly themselves to act, to confront what it is that’s holding them back and push themselves as far as they can go. Each play is about action and each play is about limits, and how to push past those limits, even if they nearly break you. Pushing hard in Guapa means a potentially deadly injury, but ultimately finding inspiration to go towards a dream, in The Way of Water it means recognizing that the real fight is not over, it has not even begun, in Spark it means pushing past the pain to find a road a road to healing, and in Hide Sky it means rebuilding at what seems irreparably broken.
They are also a call to action for the audience, a call to stand up, look out and examine the world around us, loudly or quietly. These four plays ask us to look at America today. To examine our own seemingly quiet lives and ask the bigger questions about where we are and where we are going. For me, the most powerful theatre is that theatre that confronts the everyday in an honest, earnest way – theatre that nestles deep into our lives and asks us to question and perhaps confront how we live. There is something magical and at times abstract about the plays in the Quartet, but they are also part of a tradition of deeply insightful realism, because these characters are real in the most honest sense of the word. They are real because they are trying to live their lives in the face of adversity, because they often fail, yet they cannot help but try again, because they burn with the passion of a thousand coals to get their lives in order and make themselves, and often those around them live better and live right.
There is a history of burning in the plays of Caridad Svich and this is especially true of this American Quartet. In Spark, Lexie sings: “All of us are born to burn,” and in that moment, she might mean burn up like a tree caught in a raging fire, but the character in these plays also burn with desire, anger, passion, compassion and truth. No one lies in these plays. These characters stretch the truth so they can get themselves to bed at night, and hold on to hope that things might change, but in the end, they all know the score, and if their words do not say it, their faces do. Hide Sky ends with the line, “Prayin’ for another day,” and that cuts straight to the truth of what each and every character in these plays is doing. They might feel at times like they cannot take anymore - that they are going to burn up, but in the end, they need to, want to, have to see tomorrow. Because they know if they make it to tomorrow, they make just make it in the end.
Caridad Svich is the rare dramatist who is not afraid to look straight into the bleeding heart of America, and then put it right on the page. These plays are personal and these plays are political. With an unflinching insight into the lives of working Americans in the 21st century, this American Quartet paints a vivid picture of the beauty and pain of what means to live in this country today.
I invite you to read these plays separately, to read them together, but most importantly to read them with all the heart and soul that Caridad put into them. These are special plays, vibrant plays, and important plays. Enjoy.
Los Angeles, California Winter 2013
2013 Limited Edition Publication from Santa Catalina Editions/NoPassport:
by Caridad Svich
Four plays by OBIE-award-winning dramatist Caridad Svich that center on stories of the US' working poor. A tough-minded, lyrical quartet of dramas set in small towns in Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina and the Florida Panhandle - this collection paints a stark, tender portrait of citizens looking for some kind of healing on this here earth. The plays in this limited edition volume are GUAPA, THE WAY OF WATER, SPARK and HIDE SKY. With an introduction by Zac Kline, and essays by Henry Godinez, Heather Helinsky and Caridad Svich.
paperback, print on demand: $18.00
6 X 9
Direct purchase link:
Santa Catalina Editions/NoPassport
NoPassport Theatre Alliance & Press force/collision Theatre J Twinbiz
GUN CONTROL THEATRE ACTION
Saturday January 26, 2013
Gonda Theatre, Georgetown University
Directed by force/collision
ORDER OF PIECES:
The Wake by Caridad Svich
Hello, My Name is Joe by Amina Henry
Rand by Jennifer Maisel
Gun Play by OIiver Mayer
Cecily by Neil LaBute
Happiness by Chiori Miyagawa
Change by Elaine Avila
See Dick and Jane Get Ready for School by Gary Winter
Right After Virginia Tech by Laura Zam
Electric Midnight Emergency Call by Lynn Manning
The Next Time by Cecilia Copeland
What Are We Going to Do About Little Brother? by Zac Kline
A Poem for Sandy Hook by August (Gus) Schulenberg
Artists must react. Artists must react to the world around them to be fully engaged as artists and citizens. They must react to what they see in the world that inspires beauty, and also what troubles them, what makes them questions, what makes them want to effect change and makes them want to seek out a dialogue with others. The artist’s responsibility is not to answer questions, but surely to ask them. Today we are asking questions, today we are engaging in that dialogue. Gun control is a serious topic not only in this county, but around the world. NoPassport Theatre Alliance and Press (Caridad Svich, founder) in collaboration with Theatre J, force/collision and Twinbiz put out a call for new writing about gun control. We received over a hundred submissions from playwrights, poets and theatre-makers of all regard with vibrant and important reactions to the recent events in Newton, Auora and the continued conversation and debate about guns in America and across the globe. The pieces you will hear today represent just a small fraction of the writing we wish we could share, but also represent a vibrant first step in the conversation. The conversation about gun control must be had. It must be had in our capitols, in our schools, in our town squares, in our churches and mosques and synagogues, and in the lobby of our theatres. We ask you to watch the plays this afternoon and enjoy, but also ask you to engage with us in this crucial dialogue. Some pieces are calls to action, some are calls to question, some are prayers, but all are part of conversation that we must be having and have too long ignored.
Frank Britton is a native Washingtonian, alumnus and faculty member of the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts, and a two-time Helen Hayes Award nominee in the category of Outstanding Ensemble, Resident Play, and is currently appearing in The Minotaur (Rorschach Theatre). Recent appearances include Shape (DC World Premiere and NYC Premiere at La MaMa ETC--force/collision, Core Ensemble/founding member); Marathon '33 (The American Century Theater); The Bacchae, Les Justes (WSC Avant Bard--Acting Company Member--nearly a dozen productions, including the titular role in Richard III); and has also appeared in productions with many area theatres including Arena Stage, Round House Theatre, Synetic Theater, Theater Alliance, SCENA Theatre, Constellation Theatre Co., Forum Theatre, Spooky Action Theater, and regionally with the Virginia Shakespeare Festival and Baltimore Shakespeare Festival. Many, many thanks to Caridad and all involved.
Sarah Elizabeth Ewing, a force/collision member, has trained in Washington DC and Los Angeles. Through her work with force/collision and The Rude Guerrilla Theater Company (Orange County, CA) she has been fortunate to perform in the world and US premiers of The Nautical Yards (Ensemble), The Sacred Geometry of S&M Porn (Margaret), and San Diego (Amy). Regional credits include: NYC: Shape (Ensemble); LA/OC: HAMLETMACHINE (Hanged Woman), The Municipal Abattoir (The Girl), The Gift (Janie), Bus Stop (Elma), and A Lie of the Mind (Sally).
Dexter Hamlett, in 2012 appeared in Eric Ehn's, Shape, produced by Force Collision at La Mamma ECT. As well as Factory 449.s The Ice Child, an urban horror, and a fortunate trip to London to work for the first time in 30 years with Isolte Avila and David Bower in, Signdance Collective's, New Gold. He began the year working on the Heritage O’Neill, Moon for the Misbegotten as Phil Hogan. The body of his work on the west coast, he studied theater at Cal Arts and is truly mad.
Mark Krawczyk is an actor, a teacher, and an advocate for gun control. You can learn more about him at www.markkrawczyk.weebly.com.
Jocelyn Kuritzky has performed in and/or developed shows with 13P, PS 122, The Chocolate Factory, Clubbed Thumb, Dixon Place, Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Greenpoint Division, HERE Arts Center, La MaMa E.T.C., the Lark Play Development Center, Les Freres Corbusier, Little Theatre, MCC Theater, the Museum of Modern Art, New Dramatists, New Georges, The New Group, New York Stage and Film, New York Theatre Workshop, Page 22, Primary Stages, The Public, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Red Bull Theater, Shelby Company, Soho Rep., SPACE on Ryder Farm, Target Margin, & Working Theater. She also performs regularly with her critically acclaimed theater company, Woodshed Collective, where she is a core member and the actor in residence. Her film credits include Peace After Marriage, opposite Louise Lasser, and The Girl Next Door. She has assisted directors Trip Cullman, Kip Fagan, Carl Forsman, Will Frears, Victor Maog, Ian Morgan, John Gould Rubin, & Michael Sexton, as well as collaborated with musician Duncan Sheik. www.jocelynkuritsky.com
John Moletress is founding director of force/ collision. OFF-OFF BROADWAY: La MaMa ETC: Shape. REGIONAL: Stages Repertory Theatre: Mistakes Were Made; Steel River Playhouse: Pippin; The Crucible. DC AREA: The Nautical Yards, Magnificent Waste (World Premiere), The Saint Plays, Airswimming, 4.48 Psychosis (Capital Fringe Festival Award winner), What A Stranger May Know, Collapsing Silence, Foreign Tongue (World Premiere). OTHER: Founding Director, force/collision; Co-Founder of Helen Hayes Awards' John Aniello Award winning Factory 449; Kennedy Center/American College Theatre. Festival educator/respondent; 2012 Mayor's Arts Award finalist; JohnMoletress.com
Karin Rosnizeck is a founding member force/ collision and performed in SHAPE and The Nautical Yards. Other roles: Magdalena Sanger (Marathon ’33), Nanni (The Ice Child with Factory 449), Mrs. Winsley/ Nurse in Stop Kiss, title role in The Gnädiges Fräulein, Countess Geschwitz in Lulu, Camille Claudel in The Sculptress. She will next appear in the silliest play ever written - The Little Theatre of the Green Goose -with Ambassador Theater. Karin has also worked as dialect coach and script consultant for German plays (Studio Theater, Theater J) and translated Cold Country by Swiss playwright Reto Finger for Zeitgeist. She holds an M.A. in English and French literature and believes in soft power.
Sue Jin Song is a founding member of force/collision. She has numerous film, television, and theatrical credits (locally and regionally). She received her MFA in acting from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Sue Jin is gratified to be taking part in this evening's readings. It's nights like this that made her want to be an artist. She hopes this night brings healing, provokes thought, strengthens community, and inspires action. These deaths will not be in vain.
Howard Wahlberg is a former Director of Marketing for Arena Stage. Selected previous credits: No Rules Theatre Company’s Stop Kiss, directed by Holly Twyford, and Suicide, Incorporated; The Gaming Table (u/s, Folger Theatre), Time Stands Still (u/s Studio Theatre), Cry for the Gods, (Capital Fringe Festival). Howard studied the Meisner technique with Kathryn Gately at Mason Gross School of the Arts, as well as improvisation, pantomime, and clowning with Tanya Belov, Ronlin Foreman, Steve Smith, Glen “Frosty” Little, and Lou Jacobs at Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s Clown College.
Laura Zam Laura Zam is a writer/performer specializing in one-person plays. Venues: The Public Theater, EST, Woolly Mammoth, and others nationally and internationally. Her newest play Married Sex was recently commissioned by Theater J. Awards include Tennessee Williams Fellowship, Soros Foundation grant, and Artist Fellowship (DCCAH). Laura has published in Time Out, Velvet Magazine, and Monologues for Women, by Women II, among others. She’s also worked with trauma survivors all over the world, including teens from the Middle East and wounded veterans. She has an M.F.A. in Playwriting from Brown University. LauraZam.com.
Rachel Zampelli is an actress based in Washington, DC. Her most recent work includes Dying City (Signature Theatre) and Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson (The Studio Theatre 2ndStage). Rachel received her BA in Theater at Santa Clara University. She is looking forward to finishing up this season at Signature Theatre playing Meg in Beth Henley's Crimes of the Heart, directed by Aaron Posner and Marta in Stephen Sondheim's Company, directed by Eric Schaeffer.
Ari Roth, Theatre J staff, Georgetown University, Dr. Derek Goldman, Dept. of Theater and Performance Studies, Toby Clark, Associate Director of Programs, Dept. of Theater and Performance Studies, Dept. of Theater and Performance studies staff, Molly Smith, Suzanne Blue Star Boy, Tony Adams and all the wonderful authors who contributed pieces to Gun Control Theatre Action.
Please give a listen to another artist’s response to the tragedy in Newton, ABC’s in Heaven by Carla Gordon and Wayne Richard
NoPassport invites dramatists, storytellers and poets to send work in the 3-7 minute range and take part in a Theatre Action for weekend of January 26-28, 2013 (to coincide with the March on Washington for Gun Control). The pieces must be sent by January 15, 2013 to nopassport2013forguncontrol@
In DC: Theater J in D.C. has offered to collaborate with NoPassport and host an after-show event at 5 PM on January 26, 2013 after their performance of Boged (Traitor): An Enemy of the People at Georgetown University's Gonda Theatre where writers, actors and storytellers can read from their work.
On the national level: NoPassport invites practitioners and theatre venues (professional, academic or otherwise) to join us in this theatre action. Please let us know if you wish to take part and collaborate with us in some way.
On the global level: NoPassport recognizes all too well that gun control is not merely a US issue, but affects all of us. If your local company wishes to join us in this action, do let us know.
Basic information about this theatre action for January 2013 will be live on www.nopassport.org by 5 January 2013.
Please feel free to forward this call to your colleagues.