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Reflections from UPON THE FRAGILE SHORE at Illinois Wesleyan University

Reflections from UPON THE FRAGILE SHORE at Illinois Wesleyan University

Iris Sowlat

When I was directing Upon the Fragile Shore, the line that jumped out at me was the last line, “it is.”  The play is not only a response to various human-made tragedies, but also as a call to action.  We only have one planet Earth, and when we have destroyed it through hate-infused violence towards other humans, or through mindless neglect towards the environment, we will have destroyed all that we have.  Our generation has the power to affect change and end the human-inflicted violence happening right now.  But will we?  Do we have the energy or the willpower? 

            I directed this play for Shringara Theatre Company, Illinois Wesleyan’s student-run, multicultural theatre company.  During the rehearsal process, the cast and I asked questions, had discussions, and did research relating to the events and the themes.  We also had a post-show discussion after the reading.  One statement that resonated with me from the discussion was when Natalie Howard (who played A, the one left in Port Sulphur, Louisiana) started talking about one of her character’s later monologues in which she is telling someone that she does not need to be saved.  Natalie said that her interpretation of this character’s situation was that many people think they go into destroyed parts of the world to try to “help” people, but they often fail because they believe that the “help” they are offering is superior to any other help the people in these areas can receive.  One is only really helping a group of people in a tragic situation if they are willing to listen and take the time to figure out what they really need.

            Another thing that came out of this discussion was how love was a common theme in all of the scenes.  Most of the characters were speaking about the tragedies they had experienced because these tragedies had affected someone they love.  This got us talking about how love is something that is universal throughout every country, culture, and time period, and that no matter the nature of a situation, people’s decisions are often motivated in part by the need to protect the ones they love.  

            In the days following the reading, I talked to a couple friends who didn’t stay for the discussion.  One common comment was that they were surprised at how recent the events of the play were.  Someone I know said that she didn’t know certain things were happing in Nigeria, Damascus, and Venezuela, and that this play opened her eyes to tragedies that may not be talked about on a day to day basis. 

            I think the fact that this reading made people aware of events that they weren’t aware of shows that the play is beginning to do what it is meant to do.