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The Way of Water Blog Posts

Honest Truths in The Way of Water


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.

Marylee M. Orr
Executive Director
Louisiana Environmental Action Network/Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper


On The Way of Water By Melanie Driscoll


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.  

Introduction to THE WAY OF WATER, By Henry Godinez

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 last week of 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]

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.

The Fear was All Inside Him

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 WaterIn 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.

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.