You are here:

Feed aggregator

THE WAY OF WATER in Pretoria, South Africa

Way of Water Blog - Tue, 04/24/2012 - 19:28


by Henco Jacob

"Being a part of a reading of this nature reminds one of the devastation and social implications such a tragedy has on an environment and its inhabitants, not only when the tragedy occurs, but long afterwards when we have all forgotten and have continued with our own lives. The important theme of speaking out and standing up for what is right and not to let life just continue on its ‘merry’ way should become ingrained into our everyday lives. It was a privilege to be a part of this international undertaking."

The Way of Water by Caridad Svich was read at the University of Pretoria, Main campus, on April 13th, 2012 at the Lier Theatre, Marie-Heleen Coetzee, director.

Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts

What I learned from THE WAY OF WATER at IUP

Way of Water Blog - Mon, 04/23/2012 - 17:52

by Christina Soracco, stage management student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania

The way I got involved in this project was both, in my opinion, bit random and perhaps a stroke of luck for both Jason and myself. I had initially contacted Prof. Chimonides with a project of my own, as I am a playwright just starting out, and was asking for help with what was to be the second workshop for me. This turned into one of those you scratch my back I'll scratch yours sort of deals. I was of course thrilled to help Jason. When Prof. Chimonides first came to me looking for help for IUP’s reading of Caridad Svich’s The Way of Water I initially thought that it would be fun, and a nice thing to do. I would be helping Prof. Chimonides out with one of his projects.

A couple of days passed and I heard nothing and then he sent out about 10 e-mails to me. Most of these were just correspondence e-mails but two or three really started me on, what I now consider to be a journey, this project. Those e-mails contained first and foremost the script, which I consider to be the body of this whole project and then also the No Passport website and the Indigogo website. I perused the sites in my free time that day and couldn't wait to read script, which I did later that night. It was beautiful. Heart wrenching.

We read through the script with the whole cast the night before. In my opinion that was moving in itself. They were really able to immerse themselves in the characters they portrayed and played very well off of each other. So will actually I asked them if they read through it before together over the weekend. Of course they hadn’t but it being my first experience with something like this I was pretty amazed. On the night of what I refer to as the official reading, they read it even better. My naïve-ness led me to believe such a thing was not possible, I'm glad they proved me wrong. Watching them once again interact with each other and with the inclusion of the audience was something that was just incredible to me.   Talking about incredible the line that stuck out to me the most was the last line on page 91 “Man can't get sick in this country.” This is also found on the indigo go website and just reading it alone before I read through the script I thought it was talking about our ability as a race to prevent sickness among ourselves. Obviously this was incorrect and that was made clear after I read through the script. But Jimmy's words mean to me, is that in their line of work, which has been turned upside down by the oil spill and the chemicals that were distributed, they can't afford to get sick. If they do they lose everything.   This really struck a chord with me because it's so hard to believe how heartless and how willing these big oil companies are to look other way. In my opinion, their job is not even close to being finished. They have ruined the livelihoods of countless numbers of families along the coastal region they're acting as though everything is just fine, that's just messed up.   I guess it's me getting a little bit off topic in that last paragraph. We have a talkback at the end of our reading and some parts of people's families lived in the affected regions. Should the person who spoke said that her family reunions in the last couple years sounded a lot like the script. We all laughed at first, because, I'm guessing, of, the language. We’re so far away from it up here in Pennsylvania that it's for and to us at whatever we talk of rednecks this is kind of what we imagine so in that way it was humorous. After the initial response, which might’ve lasted all of five seconds it got very serious. The atmosphere in the room changed as reality settled in. I think that everyone walked away from this perhaps with more than they bargained for, but when it's about spreading the word of something so important I think we did a good job.   I have come out of work with this project, not only with something I can add to my resume haha, but with a deeper understanding of many things. The first and foremost being a critically deeper understanding of the effects of the BP oil spill. I also learned partly what sort of time and effort goes into spreading the word, getting people to show up, getting the community involved, finding actors and overall just getting this thing up and running. This was a great experience for me and I am honored to be part of something like this. I think it really shows us how easily things can be forgotten, and held something like a play can enlighten us so much.   The Way of Water by Caridad Svich was read on April 10th, 2012 at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, directed by Jason Chimonides.  Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts

A Free, Open-Access, Peer-reviewed Electronic Resource about the Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Way of Water Blog - Mon, 04/23/2012 - 16:58

20 April 2012

Two years ago today, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil platform killed 11 men and initiated the largest marine oil spill in history, with roughly five million barrels released from the Macondo well, with roughly 4.2 million barrels pouring into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

To provide factual information and curricular resources about this disaster, the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) and our Council of Environmental Deans and Directors (CEDD) have created the Online Clearinghouse for Education And Networking: Oil Interdisciplinary Learning (OCEAN-OIL) a free, open-access, peer-reviewed electronic education resource about the Deepwater Horizon disaster


OCEAN-OIL resources now available at include:   •       National Commission Reports on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill- all of the 30 official reports and many background papers •       Articles (160+)  hyper-linked, encyclopedia style •       Teaching resources (30) including games and teacher guides •       Glossary (400+) related to oil spill causes, impacts, clean-up, and prevention •       Acronyms (LPG,  PPM,  ROV,  VOC) (75+) to help decode the language of oil spill science •       External links (100+) to  government sites, image galleries, news sources, industry, environmental groups, education, and journal articles •        Photo galleries: Images by renowned photojournalist Gary Braasch and others •        Deepwater Horizon by the Numbers: Publication-quality graphs •       Videos (280+) •       Databases - Statistics, technical diagrams, maps, and other data   The OCEAN-OIL website is seamlessly integrated into the Encyclopedia of Earth (, which is a free, peer-reviewed, searchable collection of content about the Earth, its natural environments, and their interaction with society, written by expert scholars and educators. The site is designed to be a resource to faculty members and other educators who may use the incident in their teaching.   The project is a partnership among NCSE, CEDD, Louisiana State University and Boston University. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation.   For more information, contact: David E. Blockstein, Ph.D. Executive Secretary, Council of Environmental Deans and Directors Senior Scientist National Council for Science and the Environment 1101 17th St. NW #250 Washington DC 20036 202-207-0004 direct 202-530-5810 general 202-628-4311 fax Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts

The Way of Water at University of Nebraska at Omaha

Way of Water Blog - Mon, 04/23/2012 - 16:32

by Sarah Fogarty, graduate student at University of Nebraska at Omaha

On April 10th in coordination with the graduate seminar course Women by Women, we held a staged reading of Caridad Svich’s The Way of Water.  We had a small but very interested audience, comprised of students, faculty, and community members.

My experience with the play began earlier in the semester, during the first few weeks of classes.  A fellow graduate student told us about the reading scheme after Caridad sent an email to her and our professor, Dr. Cindy Melby Phaneuf.  We had the wonderful experience of producing another one of Caridad’s plays, 12 Ophelias (a play with broken songs), in December at UNO.  Cindy also directed Caridad’s play Alchemy of Desire/Dead Man’s Blues this past summer for the Great Plains Theatre Conference, so we have enjoyed a close relationship with Caridad and jumped at the opportunity to be involved.

Cast as Neva, I was initially drawn in by the beauty and rhythm of such self-described, “back of the woods” people like the Robichauxs and Skows.  There are so many stereotypes of such individuals (I am all too familiar with country bumpkin stereotypes being originally from Kentucky), that I think is hard for dramatists to paint them as anything more than caricatures.  But this was different; I immediately connected with each one of them, especially Rosalie, who I felt for so much that I was afraid my heart would break.

For me, the play wasn’t so much about the issue of the BP Oil Spill; it was more about the way that we, as humans, deal with a disaster, of any kind.  During rehearsals, we discussed how people try to learn as much as they can about their current situation, even if they have very little formal training in the subject.  All the characters became actively involved in learning about their situation and devising solutions on how things might be fixed.  When I was little and my grandpa was dying of cancer, I remember my father and mother painstakingly remembering the details of what the doctors told them, thinking that maybe if they understood what was happening biologically, it might make them feel better.  But the science of it never makes it more human; it just distances us from our soul.

The moments that affected me the most were between Jimmy and Rosalie; especially when Rosalie describes the sweater that Jimmy bought her at Target: even though it was too expensive, he bought it anyway because he knew that she wanted it.  Even the not so tender moments between Rosalie and Jimmy were heart wrenching, when Jimmy accused Rosalie of spending money on lipstick at the Dollar Store, or when he accused her of mismanaging the finances when he was in the hospital.  Rosalie goes on to describe the lengths to which she went to make ends meet, though in the end, it wasn’t enough.

In a post-reading discussion with the graduate seminar class, we extended our discussion of how this play can live in many different worlds. There are startling similarities between the oil spill and mountaintop removal in Eastern Kentucky and Appalachia where coal mining companies have literally been blowing the tops off mountains with little concern.  It is amazing to think of how little the cost of not only our Earth, but also animals and other human beings means to these large companies.  And we, by relying on coal and oil are contributing to the problem.  When will it stop? Will it ever stop? Is there not anything that can be done about it? “Just keep on the keep on” Yuki says to Jimmy, but is that enough? Can it ever be enough?

This play is full of strong emotions as well as unanswered questions.  Sometimes I think it would have been easier if I hadn’t read it, then I wouldn’t feel so conflicted inside:  what can I do about this? Anything?  Is it any of my business? Is it a hopeless cause? Even though I hate that I am conflicted by this, it makes me feel a greater appreciation for the human spirit and mother earth, and I am motivated to help protect them: Ignorance isn’t always bliss, even though it wants to be.

The Way of Water by Caridad Svich was read on April 10th, 2012 at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, directed by Dr. Cindy Melby PhaneufActors included Zack Jennison (Jimmy), Thais Flait Giannoccaro (Rosalie), Colt Neidhardt (Yuki), and Sarah Fogarty (Neva). 

Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts

From the Tampa Bay Times

Way of Water Blog - Sat, 04/14/2012 - 23:49

"Oil from Deepwater Horizon spill still causing damage in the Gulf 2 years later, scientists say"

article by Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer. In Print: Sunday, April 15, 2012.


"On Florida's Panhandle beaches, where local officials once fretted over how much oil washed in with each new tide, everything seems normal. The tourists have returned. The children have gone back to splashing in the surf and hunting for shells.

Every now and then, a tar ball as big as a fist washes ashore. That's the only apparent sign that the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history tainted these sugar-white sands two years ago.

But with an ultraviolet light, geologist James "Rip" Kirby has found evidence that the oil is still present, and possibly still a threat to beachgoers.

Tiny globs of it, mingled with the chemical dispersant that was supposed to break it up, have settled into the shallows, mingling with the shells, he said. When Kirby shines his light across the legs of a grad student who'd been in the water and showered, it shows orange blotches where the globs still stick to his skin.

"If I had grandkids playing in the surf, I wouldn't want them to come in contact with that," said Kirby, whose research is being overseen by the University of South Florida. "The dispersant accelerates the absorption by the skin."

As those blotches show, the gulf and its residents are still coping with the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which began with a fiery explosion aboard an offshore drilling rig on April 20, 2010. Read More

Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts

Director Daniella Topol interviews playwright Caridad Svich on her play The Way of Water for the Lark

Way of Water Blog - Fri, 04/13/2012 - 13:15


Daniella Topo: How soon after the Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill did you know you wanted to write a play that responded to this event?

Caridad Svich: As a citizen, I was, of course, deeply affected by Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill. I have great affection for the U.S. Gulf region, especially since part of my life growing up was spent in Florida. Watching the news footage of the devastation to the ocean, the wildlife, the birds, and the human beings was and continues to be heartbreaking (because the devastation is far from over). I was outraged and heartbroken. And still am. However, I didn't know I would write a play set in its aftermath. Not immediately. At the time I simply, as a concerned citizen and eco-activist, followed the news stories in mainstream media, social media and online. I traveled and wrote and listened and took notes. Early in 2011 I started to write a series of poems related to the many health and environmental issues the disaster effected. Again, not thinking the poems would transform into a theatre piece. I was just writing because I needed to do so. I wanted to engage my art somehow with the complexity and enormity of the issues, and give back spiritually and emotionally in solidarity with the people most devastated by the disaster.

Then in the late spring of 2011 I wrote a play called GUAPA, which is set in Texas and although it is not about the oil spill, it is chiefly about characters living through poverty, engaged with activism, and dreaming big dreams about how they can affect their communities and environment. As I was writing GUAPA, I realized that it was the first in a quartet of plays set in the U.S. south and southwest, and that actually the poems I'd written and initial research I'd conducted about the oil spill was the next play to be written. In a sense, one play flowed directly from the other, although in the case of both, I'd been thinking about the issues and region, in and out of disaster, for a long time. The necessity to write The Way of Water stirred up. The characters started speaking to me and wouldn't let me go.

DT: You have done a considerable amount of research about the Spill and its impact on the residents of the area. In what ways is the play based on research and in what ways is it inspired by artistic license?

CS: The play is not theater of testimony. It is not docu-drama. It is a poetic transformation based on real events. In this I would say, it is not unlike, for example, how colleague Lynn Nottage re-interpreted research to create Ruined, or how colleague JT Rogers crafted The Overwhelming, based on research on the Rwandan genocide.Two notable examples of many in a field where there is extensive precedent for this kind of storytelling. That said, the play merges layers and levels of research with my own take on the situation in the Gulf region, and the impact the disaster has had on men and women who have been tenders of the waterways their whole lives, whose very livelihoods indeed depend on the ways of water, and whose environment, even before the 2010 spill, was already being affected by ground water contamination, air toxins and more. In the play, real events are woven into the fabric of events I've dreamt up as a writer. Poetry, politics and a human story are at the play's core. Here is a love story between people and their environment, between men and women, between friends, and between children and the legacies into which they have been born. The complexities and contradictions of being poor in America is also a strong thematic and concrete thread in the piece. You can't talk about class and race (and post-race) without talking about money in this country. They go hand in hand.

DT: How is the play still evolving/developing?

CS:Until a play gets into rehearsal, it is always in evolution. And it is only when it gets into rehearsal, unless for some reason you're writing a drawer play, that it continues its life as a breathing, moving work of theatre. Even after a first production, a play evolves. Right now The Way of Water is where it needs to be to walk into a room and play with actors in space and time. The Studio Retreat process will allow us to begin to unpack its layers, explore its humor, its sensuality, its pain, and I hope, also, its unsentimental, beating heart.

DT: The Way of Water is receiving more than 20 readings this month. How did this come about? What are some of the unique approaches various artists/communities have taken to presenting this piece?

CS:When I put together the draft of the play, after months of note-taking and journal-ing and research and dreaming, in the Lark's Winter Writers Retreat, I was simultaneously exhilarated by the writing process, and suddenly weary by what I felt would be the usual next steps for a writer working on a new play: the mailing, the reading, the workshop maybe, another reading, etc. All to the good. Yet I felt such a sense of outrage about the continued score of illnesses (human and wildlife) in the U.S. Gulf, that I thought "How can art engage civically, directly in the moment? How can the conversation go beyond the often rarefied world of new writing and into the much wider dialogue between the humanities and the sciences, between activism and art-making, between the ecology of theatre-making itself and the ecologies in which we live on a daily basis, whether we live land-locked, near water, or somewhere in between? And do so, without waiting. In the moment. Go speak directly with the people."

I spoke to some of my colleagues within the NoPassport theatre alliance (chiefly dramaturges Heather Helinsky and R. Alex Davis) and suggested "What if we knocked on a few doors and asked theatre folks in and out of the academy, far and wide, to give the play a read and thus mark the two-year anniversary of the oil spill and actually get a conversation either going or expanding deeper and wider in their local communities?" At first, we thought maybe five venues would give us a listen. But remarkably, over twenty have responded (and we're still adding venues as the consortium extends into May 2012), within the US and as far as Tasmania (Australia), Wales, London, Berlin, Sao Paolo, Rio de Janeiro (the play has been already translated into Portuguese), and Pretoria, South Africa. Each venue, whether it be Occupy Ashland in Oregon, American Stage in St. Petersburg, Main Street Theatre in Houston, University of Alabama in Birmingham or University of Waterloo in Ontario (Canada), has brought and is bringing their own local stories to the table as they connect with the play and the issues it raises, and the human story at its center. In Waterloo, for example, ground water contamination is a significant issue. The director Andy Houston has decided to stage the play, weather permitting, site-specifically outdoors on or near (as backdrop) a contaminated building site, with which his local community has a very specific and long-standing historical relationship. In Los Angeles, theatre ensemble Opera del Espacio has created a meditation/extraction of the play with their own physical theatre vocabulary - and has ritualized the audience's experience by asking them to bathe their actors in black liquid - despoiling them as the wildlife was despoiled and damaged - to enhance the visceral impact of the presentation. In Australia, the director Angela Miller will keep the play's Louisiana locale but present the piece with Australian accents and connect it emotionally to the people of the many poor coastal towns down under that are living lives not dissimilar than the ones of the characters in my play.

DT: Is this multi-reading scheme model that you would use for other plays of yours? Why or why not?

CS:The last time I endeavored the multi-reading scheme model was with the collaboratively written piece I curated Return to the Upright Position, which was written six months after September 11, 2001. Our goal then was to present the piece simultaneously on the anniversary of the disaster on the same day around the country as a creative act of spiritual healing through theatre. I don't know that every play is suited to or should be suited to such a scheme. The political outrage and compassion that stirred The Way of Water into being is very specific, and while many of my plays have been born out of both outrage and compassion, I think that in the end, each play speaks to how it needs to make itself manifest. When I wrote Iphigenia Crash Land Falls... (a rave fable), I never knew that it would take me to London and Greece for its first workshop in it development phase, but that's where it first found its legs. The Way of Water, like water itself, I suppose, wanted to rise up and connect and flow. I'm grateful to the many, many practitioners and educators who have put it on a raft from one city to another across many miles and continents, and are finding their own ways through and inside it. I'm just following where it goes.


Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts

"Show Me" THE WAY OF WATER at University of Missouri

Way of Water Blog - Fri, 04/13/2012 - 10:01
On Tuesday, April 10, 2012, the Missouri Playwrights Workshop hosted a reading of Caridad Svich's THE WAY OF THE WATER.  The workshop is very informal, a playwright's salon, if you will, and we bring a general sense of openness and interest in craft which is a bit outside the typical audience experience.  And of course, they're Missourians, or mostly Missourians, so there is always that attitude of "show me" to any work presented at the workshop.  Meaning, you've got to "show them" why they should care about what it is you're trying to say.  We are the "show me" state, after all—and we're just this side of cranky about our drama.   The group was mostly Mizzou undergrads, with a few local writers, and a graduate student or two.    It was more packed than usual, as we have had Caridad as a guest artist in the past, and they love her, and her magic, and really respect her writing.   I think it's safe to say, that Caridad "showed them" - that is, she opened their eyes to the depth of misery that the folks around the Gulf have experienced Post-BP-Oil-Spill: the sickness, the betrayal, the frustration with their government officials and their own ability to change what has happened.  And in our post-play discussion, to basically wrestle with the issues that Caridad raises so eloquently in her play—we all struggled with the kind of paralysis that seems to have happened since the Oil Spill and since Katrina.  Since we're just up the Mississippi a bit from all these events, the students know folks down on the Gulf, have family there, and the awful pain and suffering experienced by Jimmy, Rosalie, Yuki, and Neva was very close to home.   Like the Missourians we are, we wrestled with the dramaturgy of the play, discussed what we felt worked, and what didn't work—hey, we're a cranky bunch of scribblers, ya know—but at the same time, the students were furiously googling all the different sicknesses that have lingered since the Oil Spill, the horrifying effects of Corexit, the lack of protective gear for those who cleaned up the spill, the ghoulish quality of PAH or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons---aspects that Caridad hauntingly recreated with her magic—the vomiting of fish, the orchids of paper and pipe cleaners, the notion that, like the survivors of the Bikini Island nuclear tests, there would be no return to paradise for the good fishing folk of the Gulf of Mexico.   In the end, we were all grateful to have had taken this moment with THE WAY OF THE WATER with Caridad, nearly two years out from the original explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, as this issue will linger for many years, and there are protesters still there—though too few—whose protests still need to be heard.  We need to Occupy these problems; we need to embrace this pain.  Even as BP and all those smiling happy commercials tells us all it's okay to come back to the Gulf, and swim, and eat what's there—it's important that my students had the opportunity to hear a different voice, and a voice that is as passionate and lyric as Caridad's to remind us that there is still many years of work to be done to rectify the terrible poisoning of the Gulf of Mexico, after the disaster of the BP Oil Spill.   Dr. David A. Crespy, Associate Professor of Playwriting Director, Undergraduate Studies Artistic Director, Missouri Playwrights Workshop Co-Director, MU Writing for Performance Program Resident Playwright, First Run Theatre Company, St. Louis Missouri Field Representative, Dramatist Guild, Inc   THE WAY OF WATER by Caridad Svich was read at the Missouri Playwrights Workshop at the University of Missouri Department of Theatre on April 10th, at 7pm. Dr. David A. Crespy, Artistic Director Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts

NPR Interview for The Way of Water

Way of Water Blog - Wed, 04/11/2012 - 10:25

Jefferson Exchange Public Radio:The Way of Water 

The play's the thing, and while in this case it may not catch the conscience of the king, organizers hope it will raise awareness of poverty, health and environment in the U.S. "The Way of Water" dramatizes life after the Gulf Oil Spill, and nationwide readings on April 9 commemorate the 2nd anniversary of the spill. Playwright Caridad Svich joins us to talk about the play and the readings.

PODCAST 4/6 Hr 1: First Friday Arts segment + Play on BP spill: "The Way of Water"



Tags: Way of WaterThe Way of Water Blog Posts

Why is Almeda Theatre in Canada involved with THE WAY OF WATER?

Way of Water Blog - Tue, 04/10/2012 - 21:25
"We have long believed that theatre is one of the most powerful tools for inciting a communal dialogue about the world we live in, the impact contemporary issues have on our health, and the long lasting repercussions our decisions and actions have on our environment and our evolution as a society. The Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill not only affected those in direct contact with the disaster, but it had national and international repercussions.   Partnering with US Latina playwright Caridad Svich means that the dialogue erases borders and unites us on an international level to talk about the things that matter most. As one of Canada's only Latin American theatre companies dedicated to developing and producing the work of Latin American artists, we feel it fitting to expand our support and create alliances with Latino artists abroad."   THE WAY OF WATER by Caridad Svich will be read at Almeda Theatre on Sunday, April 29th, 2012, 2:30pm at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. The free reading will be directed by Marilo Nunez, featuring: Karl Ang, Michelle Arvizu, Andrew Moodie, and Cherissa Richards.


Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts

The Way of Water at Vortex Theatre!

Way of Water Blog - Mon, 04/09/2012 - 18:07

by Valli Marie Rivera, Director

The reading was well received!  The audience congratulated the good acting and the staging. The audience about of 35 in our 75-seat theatre was engaged during and after the reading enthusiastic in talk back. The reaction in talk back was quite passionate and serious: about what's happening now in the Gulf, about not having a decent health insurance plan for the people who can't pay, about the cover-up with Corexit and how this can effect future marine life and create more health issues to the community.  About what the government is doing.  About what we can all do to make a difference with our environment. About who are you as a playwright and activist. About the multi-reading and participating venues. The audience agreed this was a great idea to create awareness and the keep the conversation going.  If the play will have a full production...All was good! 

I invited the audience to go to NoPassport blog to continue conversation how the reading affected them or just express what's on their mind about the BP spill and it's consequences to the people and the environment.

I am hoping that happens. 

It has been a journey for all of us. A real awakening for sure with the question in our minds: "what are you going to do about it?"

Thank you so much for inspiring us all again with your stories and questions provoked by them!

The Way of Water by Caridad Svich was read at Vortex Theatre in Alburquerque, New Mexico on April 7th, 2012 at 2pm.

Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts

Beyond the Horizon Festival at UMASS Amherst

Way of Water Blog - Mon, 04/09/2012 - 17:11


by Megan McClain, dramaturg

On April 20, 2010, BP’s Deepwater Horizon off-shore drilling unit exploded, killing 11 people. For the next three months nearly 5 million barrels of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico, negatively impacting plant, animal, and human life.  The full extent of the catastrophe’s aftermath is still unknown.  Though the news media’s coverage of the spill has dissipated in the ensuing years, artists and activists continue to give voice to the lasting devastation of this event.  Addressing the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its position in a long line of environmental disasters, the Beyond the Horizon Festival presented by the UMass Amherst Theatre Department seeks to use performance to map our changing relationship to the natural world and offer models of community response to ecological crisis.   Developed by a interdisciplinary community of theatre artists, musicians, dancers, and environmentalists, the Beyond the Horizon Festival offers three original devised theatre pieces that use the power of performance to illuminate the interactions between humans and the environment. 

            The first piece, What Have We Learned, uses letters, dance, and song to explore how the BP Gulf oil spill has effected the lives of those in the Gulf and beyond.  To whom it may concern addresses how we struggle to communicate during times of crisis in a world pulsing with the din of suffering, disconnection, and corruption.  The final piece, Nightingale, imagines a post-apocalyptic society in which natural organisms are strictly controlled and shows what happens when one bird throws the whole system into shock. 

            Members of the Beyond the Horizon artistic team are also participating in a reading of Caridad Svich’s new play, The Way of Water, presented in collaboration with NoPassport Theatre alliance and press as part of a nationwide and international reading scheme.  The Way of Water interrogates the BP Gulf oil spill by exposing the continued negative effects of the disaster on the health and livelihoods of those in the region.  This network of readings across the country joins theatre artists in a larger conversation about the hidden and ignored human suffering of those exposed to contaminated water in the Gulf.

            Silent Spring author Rachel Carson once wrote, “In nature, nothing exists alone.” The same can be said of theatre.  Though theatre has been described as the site for exploring the human condition, that human condition is intrinsically linked to the conditions of all other life on this planet.  Theatre gives us a space to play out sites of connection and disconnection. It creates a place to reassess our destructive actions and celebrate the most beautiful wonders of the world around us.  Above all, it offers the chance to rediscover and announce what poet Mary Oliver calls our “place in the family of things.”

            The Beyond the Horizon Festival runs April 5-7 and April 10-14 at 8pm and April 14 at 2pm in the Curtain Theatre of the Fine Arts Center on the UMass Amherst campus.  The reading of Caridad Svich’s new play, The Way of Water, will be held at 4:30pm on April 10th at Food for Thought Books, 106 N. Pleasant St. Amherst, MA. For more information visit

Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts

Academic Theme Launched on World Water Day

Way of Water Blog - Thu, 04/05/2012 - 13:44

Two of the participating institutions: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and UMASS Amherst have used THE WAY OF WATER to respond to their school's mandates to initiate campus-wide discussions about water.  Take a moment to check out these articles published by UNC's University Gazette and The Valley Advocate: 


"The things that are wrong with water today are pretty big, and the pressures on water are huge. But it is within the grasp of human kind to use it as a tool for good," said Jamie Bartram, professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the Gillings School of Global Public Health and director of The Water Institute at UNC.


The UMASS Theater Department has risen to the deans' challenge by creating three original works that "map and explore our changing relationship to the natural world and offer models of community response to ecological crisis."  Beyond the Horizen  is an exercise in "devised theater," explains dramaturgy grad student Megan McClain, the project's curator. The pieces were co-created by the participants---two dozen students from three of the Five Colleges---using research, found texts and their own words and ideas. This approach, says McClain, mirrors and extends the notion of interconnectedness in the campus wide theme.

We also appreciate Carnegie Mellon dramaturgy student Emily Anne Gibson initiated an article on TheatreManiaU

"All in all, this is a project I feel strongly about being involved in. I have a lot of beliefs about theater, but one of them is that it should provide a social commentary. And this most certainly does. I also think theater should create a conversation. And I believe that The Way of Water  will do just that. And I know, first hand, that theater must be communal---this reading series is a wonderful embodiment of that community, and when the play receives its world premiere, I believe that it will create a community out if its audience that can talk, argue, collaborate, and come to new understandings."

Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts

Women are Disproportionately Affected by the BP Oil Spill

Way of Water Blog - Mon, 04/02/2012 - 16:37

Dear Actors, Directors and The Way of Water participants:

In my conversations with Cindy Cooper, Managing Editor for On the Issues Magazine, she directed me to the research efforts of Jacqui Patterson. As you will see from her article below, women have been disproportantly affected by the BP Oil Spill. If you are playing the roles of Rosalie and Neva, we hope you find her article particularly moving.---Heather Helinsky, dramaturg

Gulf Oil Drilling Disaster: Gendered Layers of Impact 
by Jacqui Patterson

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Drilling Disaster of April 20, 2010 (the “BP Oil Spill”) is, as the news sometimes tells us, causing grave damage to the waterways and shores, marshlands and bayous of the Gulf of Mexico. Far more hidden is the devastation wrought on the women in scores of coastal communities.

My research and investigations in the Gulf region indicate that while all were affected, the women of the coast experienced differential impacts and unique issues during the disaster and in its aftermath. In this regard, the Gulf disaster fits in with the experiences of disasters worldwide, in which, across the board, women are disproportionately affected.

In the case of the Deepwater Horizon incident, women’s experiences were different from men in four main areas: 1) Care-taking and health; 2) Economic health; 3) Abuse in the home 4) Family stability.  In many ways, women were required to take on new family responsibilities in the wake of the Gulf disaster. From a gender perspective, these are many lessons to bring forward.

Challenged with Family Health and Welfare

In the aftermath of the disaster, people reported many health concerns: respiratory issues, digestive problems, skin reactions and other conditions. With these new health issues on the rise, women’s care-taking experienced a corresponding increase. As is typical in many families, women in the Gulf took on the role of caregiver when husbands, children or other family members became sick.

Furthermore, women faced risk to their own health, especially because of differential effects on reproductive health, as is frequently true in situations of environmental exposure. Veteran toxicologist Dr. William Sawyer, in his analysis of the risks resulting from toxic exposures arising from the Gulf Oil Drilling Disaster, pointed to Toluene and aromatic hydrocarbons as risks for women because they are known to cause spontaneous abortions and severe birth defects in humans and other mammals.

Mental health issues increased, and women reported having to be the pillars of stability and leadership in the family so that members could continue to function.

In addition, women became the spokespersons for families that needed to share their stories and advocate for justice. Recovery workers – most of those who were hired were male -- had to sign contracts saying that they wouldn’t “speak out” about their experiences as part of clean-up crews or other parts of the recovery, leaving the women to carry community voices.

Reliance on public assistance increased significantly in the region due to the disaster.  Women were left responsible for accessing public assistance -- whether it’s because women are viewed as being in charge of household matters, or because of gender based “pride” differentials.  As Mary McCall of Coden, Alabama, shared with me, “And then I’m trying to help fishermen without jobs. I would get in line to get groceries, but them -- being men -- they didn’t want to do that. They didn’t want to say ‘I’m going to stand in line for them to give me groceries’; I did it for (the men).”

Economic Access and Opportunities Shunted

Women’s access to economic opportunities was limited and their experiences in the workplace were compromised because of the Deepwater Horizon incident. The gender of workers in the affected region influenced the degree of economic devastation, the ability to find new work, the percentage of compensation for loss of work in the claims process and experiences in the recovery process.

Jobs that women occupied before the disaster were more vulnerable to being obliterated. Oyster shuckers, crab pickers and chambermaids who I interviewed in my investigations were predominantly women, and they lost their employment. Some boat owners were able to gain revenue from being a part of the “Vessels of Opportunity” program that utilized boats in the clean up, and hotels continued to operate even when occupancy was low. But, employees on the lower rungs of the employment ladder – especially women -- suffered the greatest impact to their earning ability.

Many of the recovery jobs involved manual labor, and women were excluded from these opportunities. At one worksite, managers reported that out of the 300 workers, only 10 were women. Women reported being trained and then not being hired when mass recruitment of crews took place. Several women reported their concerns and were only hired after the NAACP called contractors expressing concern for discriminatory hiring practices. Clearly, the Department of Labor needs to increase oversight in ensuring that contractors do not discriminate based on gender.

In addition, many women reported numerous accounts of workplace sexual harassment by both co-workers and supervisors on various clean- up operation sites.  Contractors must adopt zero-tolerance policies on sexual harassment in the workplace.

Women were also under-represented in the contracts awarded in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon Incident. An analysis of BP Supplier/Contractor Diversity data shows that a total of $181.4 million in small business contracts was awarded; women-owned businesses received only $4.9 million in contracts, less than three percent of the total.  In the future, agencies offering contracts must be intentional about outreach to women owned-businesses.

Please read Jacqui Patterson's article further by clicking on this link to On the Issues Magazine! There's more!

Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts

Play Performance to Benefit Occupy Ashland

Way of Water Blog - Mon, 04/02/2012 - 14:19

by Andy Seles & Joanna Goff

An explosion on April 20, 2010 aboard the Deepwater Horizon, a drilling rig working on a well for BP one mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico led to the largest accidental oil spill in history. Residents who live along the coast, all the way from Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana to western Florida continue to suffer acute symptons attributed to ongoing exposure to toxic chemicals being released from BP's crude oil and the toxic Corexit dispersants used to sink the oil. Thousands of deaths along the Gulf Coast region have been linked to this toxic damage. This devastation is deemed by many in the health and science field as the equivalent of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

In her recent essay Towards a Visible Theatre, playwright Caridad Svich wrote, "Theatre is a public forum. Writing for the theatre and live performance thus demands engagement with the world. To write a play is a civic act, or at the very least the articulation of a desire to take part in a civic dialogue with society. Broad questions of identity and human rights enter very much into the frame of a play's vision." Her newest play, The Way of Water, will be given a free staged reading at Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall on Monday, April 9 at 7pm. All donations at the door will benefit OCCUPY ASHLAND. The Way of Water deals with the aftermath of the BP oil spill; the play was released to groups around the globe to commemorate the disaster by humanizing the people and their suffering. In the play, two Louisiana gulf fisherman and their wives struggle with humor and grace for survival as their health, vitality, and livelihood have been severely disrupted by the toxic environment.

Joanna Goff, a teacher/actor/director, has assembled a cast that includes Trevor Mather, Fiona Fire, Thomas Letchworth and Jazmin Roque. Letchworth, who plays the role of the fisherman Yuki, recently stated, "The arts and the artistic process offer themselves up as tremendously powerful tools for social change. Through art people gain inspiration, hone creativity and develop passion, all of which are invaluable assets to the would-be activist. Art and creativity have the ability to cut through the barriers of race, class and location in a way that no other mechanism can. In this way the pen, paintbrush and body are truly mightier than the sword."

Eddie Lee, who was originially cast as fisherman Jimmy Robichaux, writes: "So why protest and activate socially? I believe this play demonstrates our attention to the world around us, and begin extending our support to one another. The Way of Water is populated by rich characters that help tap us into our humanity, and then invites us to walk in the shoes of those who face life in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico BP oil tragedy. This art, the Art of Theatre---among the many forms of creative expression---enables the greatest movement that any one can make: to move mind and heart, so as to build the most important thing that anyone could possibly create. Community. It is time we recognize the Arts for the power and value that they really are."

Fiona Fire, who plays Rosalie, explains her involvement: "For me playing Rosalie is a joyful burden. She has shown me my own anger and sadness with fresh clarity. Sharing this story allows us to embark on a very real grieving process. Any illusions we may hold that the spill happened "over there" or "to them" are quickly dispelled in the face of such honest storytelling. The destruction of the spill is felt by all, and it is our sacred duty to tell the truth, grieve, and heal together."

Caridad Svich is a US Latina playwright, translator, lyricist and editor. She received the 2011 American Theatre Critics Association Primus Prize for her play The House of the Spirits, based on the novel by Isabelle Allende. Her works have been presented across the US and abroad at diverse venues, including Denver Center Theatre, Mixed Blood Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Repertorio Espanol, 59East59, McCarren Park Pool, 7 Stages, Salvage Vanguard Theatre, Teatro Mori (Santiago, Chile), ARTheatre (Cologne), and Edinburg Fringe Festival/UK. Svich states, "Making a play is in and of itself a fragile game that involvesthe particular relationship between and among collaborators...a tough and tender affair that demands courage, a strong sense of humor and a great deal of commitment...a writer writes becase....Writers write because...a writer Rights."

Save the date for an evening of empowering theatre. April 9 at 7pm. Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 87 4th Street. For more information contact Andy Seles at or 541-727-2677.

Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts

The Problem Continues...

Way of Water Blog - Wed, 03/28/2012 - 07:57

"No one on the platform was injured, the company said, and there appeared to be no immediate danger to anyone on shore. But the volume of gas escaping from the well threatened to make the air poisonous and potentially explosive over a wide area around the platform, and posed a danger of significant environmental harm."

"The Gas Leak on Offshore Platform Forces Evacuation in North Sea." New York Times, 27 March 2012. Reported by Julia Werdigier and Henry Fountain.



"Total said two firefighting ships are on standby near the platform, about 150 miles east of Aberdeen, and others may be mobilised soon. Hainsworth said the company was "evaluating options" on how to put out the flare and how to stem the leak.

He said international well control experts have flown to Scotland to advise the company on the best course of action. Options include drilling a relief well and sending experts on to the Elgin to kill the leak from the platform. The company said it may take up to six months to drill an emergency relief well."

"Flare still burning on North Sea gas leak platform." The Guardian.  27 March 2012. Reported by Rubert Neate.



"Unlike the oil spilled from BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the Total leak is primarily natural gas that dissipates in the air, especially in the usually windy conditions of the North Sea. But the gas in the well is known as sour gas because it contains toxic, flammable hydrogen sulfide as well as gas liquids that have created small surface sheens. Drilling a relief well, one possible solution, would be difficult because any rig would have to keep its distance from the gas leak. “This is another instance in which we see that the oil companies are not prepared for the worst-case scenarios,” said Frederic Hauge, president of the Bellona Foundation,a Norwegian environmental group. The uncontrolled leak takes place amid controversy over how Britain should manage its aging offshore oil and gas fields. Just a week ago, British Chancellor George Osborne proposed about $4.8 billion in tax breaks to help oil companies dismantle old platforms and drill new wells. “Gas is cheap, has much less carbon than coal and will be the largest single source of our electricity in the coming years,” he said in his budget statement on March 21. He said the energy secretary would “set out our new gas generation strategy” in the fall."

"Total gas leak forces evacuations in British North Sea." The Washington Post. 27 March 2012. Reported by Steven Mufson. 

Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts

Southern Oral History Program (re-post)

Way of Water Blog - Sat, 03/24/2012 - 11:55

This is information for anyone interested in continuing to read up in preparation for Caridad Svich's play THE WAY OF WATER.

Click here for a link to videos created by Andy Horowitz for the Southern Oral History Program in July 2010:

Click here for more information about the Southern Oral History Program:

The Southern Oral History Program

in the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina conducted a small series of interviews to begin the work of documenting the human effects of the BP oil spill, perhaps the worst environmental disaster in American history.


About the Project

The interviews, completed while oil was still flooding into the Gulf of Mexico from the ruptured deepwater well, reveal the worry, hope, confusion, and commitment of Louisiana coastal residents during a time of deep uncertainty and peril. The interviews allowed coastal residents to put their current predicament in historical context: they described lives and livelihoods connected – often for generations – to the coast and to the water. 

The interviewees talked about their evolving understanding of government, regulation, and industry, about the coexistence of oil and fishing industries, and about the importance of work, family, and place. They compared the oil spill to earlier challenges – like hurricanes – and described how this time seemed different, more daunting, less certain, and more out of control. They expressed frustration with so much of what was happening, and at the same time, confidence in the perseverance and intelligence of local people to get through this crisis.

From the hours of interviews – which soon will be archived at the Southern Historical Collection and made available as audio and written transcripts online  – we have highlighted a few very short sections here. Sound bites run counter to the strengths and goals of oral history, though, and we encourage you to read or listen to the interviews in their entirety. These clips are meant to offer a way in.

For nearly forty years, Southern Oral History Program has been recording the recollections and reflections of southerners. Our 4,500 oral history interviews include conversations with millworkers and farmers, activists and political operators, and many others who witnessed southern history as it happened. Visit us at

The Southern Oral History Program collaborated with the Louisiana State Museum to produce these interviews.

Andy Horowitz conducted the interviews for this series. Andy first came to the Southern Oral History Program as a college intern in 2002, and later returned to direct the SOHP’s post-Katrina project, “Imagining New Orleans,” in 2006. From 2003 to 2007, he was the founding director of the New Haven Oral History Project at Yale University, where he also taught courses on oral history and urban studies. He is currently History PhD student at Yale.


Tags: The Way of Water Blog Posts

Bird's Eye View: Must-see New Photos and Report from the Gulf (Re-post)

Way of Water Blog - Thu, 03/22/2012 - 20:15

"Over the last few weeks, there has been renewed attention down here in the Gulf region thanks to the planned BP trial and eventual partial settlement. You may have seen GRN staff at a wide range of meetings and events such as our recent Gulf Gathering in Alabama and a protest on Poydras Street in New Orleans. You may have also read any number of articles or heard interviews quoting GRN staff in the localnational and international media. Recently the media focus has shifted from the BP trial to the RESTORE Act which was just added to the Transportation Bill by the U.S Senate. GRN continues to stay focused on all of the moving parts of this ongoing disaster and continues to fight for a healthy Gulf using all of the strengths that, thanks to supporters like you, we are able to leverage and apply. This includes our field monitoring program along the Gulf coast to ensure that the ongoing impacts of the BP disaster are documented and shared.  Below is a state by state expose on impacts that continue to occur in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, all within the last few weeks." Continue Reading, click here (by Jonathan Henderson, 9 March 2012)

What we like about this post by Jonathan Henderson of the GULF RESTORATION NETWORK is that it gives a state-by-state update on what residents are seeing on their beaches. It includes links from diligent residents from Lousiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida who bear witness to what has happened since the BP spill. 

If you are an actor or member of the artistic team preparing for the readings of The Way of Water by Caridad Svich in April, we encourage you to comment on the Gulf Restoration Network's blog. Let them know that we're listening to their reporting and moved by their efforts to keep us aware of the continued impact.

----Heather Helinsky, dramaturg

Tags: Way of Water