You are here:

Zackline's blog

SPARK readings in Arizona Oct 12 and 13, 2013

Arizona Theatre Company's Cafe Bohemia presents readings of

Spark by Caridad Svich

Saturday, October 12, 2013 @ The Temple Lounge, The Temple of Music and Art

330 S. Scott Ave, Tucson AZ 85701

@ 9:00pm


Sunday, October 13, 2013 @ Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center

147 E. Adams St, Phoenix AZ 85004


SPARK is Co-Winner of ATC’s 2013 National Latino Playwriting Award

Spark is a play about three sisters living in the US, caught in the mess of a recent war’s aftermath. It is about what happens when soldiers come home, when women of little economic means must find a way to make do and carry on, and the strength, ultimately, of family. A contemporary US story of faith, love, war, trauma, and a bit of healing.


Unruly Drama

 Caridad Svich

August 25, 2013

This series focuses on personal perspectives from a select group of practitioners on theater and social change, the nature of artistic efficacy, and on past and ongoing gun control theater actions. We welcome readers to reflect with us.

What makes a play a gun control play?

Some background: In January 2013, I instigated along with theater alliance NoPassport, a gun control theater action in Washington, DC, in collaboration with Theater Jforce/collision, and twinbiz to coincide with the March on Washington for Gun Control organized by Molly Smith and Suzanne Blue Star Boy. In February 2013, NoPassport Press published24 Gun Control Plays, which gathers twenty-four plays, an essay, and an interview that were all inspired and/or presented at the Washington, DC, event. Since then, NoPassport has staged gun control theater actions in New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Sydney, Australia, and more in collaborations with NY MadnessNew York Theatre Review, and The Vicious Circle. In May, a YouTube channel was launched by The Vicious Circle and NoPassport to invite artists to film and upload, with permission, their interpretations of these plays. In June of 2013 StageReads published a selection of the plays from 24 Gun Control Plays. This September, Cedar Crest College in Pennsylvania will stage some of them for several performances. Other performances in other cities may occur in due course.

Through all of these actions what has remained constant is the faith amongst these artists that the dialogue about gun control in this country, and on a wider level, the abuse of arms globally is worth having, because the choice to be silent about this is not an option.

The question remains: are these short plays and performance texts in and of themselves gun control plays?

They are texts that address how we—

Live with and without guns

Experience and engender violence

Wound and heal,

Break and bleed.

And how sometimes we don’t know who we are as human beings in civilized societies unless we have a weapon at our side or know that there are weapons protecting us.

They are, as a body of plays, unruly dramas both in content and form. Their unruliness reflects the difficult nature of the overall thematic subject, but also, I would add, the complex character of plays that seek to not only reflect society but also intervene within it.

What is art’s efficacy?

I am of a conflicted mind about the nature of art and whether it has true efficacy, especially when it is not necessarily made with the direct and immediate goal to effect a change in a law or is somehow related to matters of governance in a village, town, or city. I believe in theater and social action. I believe in applied theater. But I also believe that art is not merely an instrument of social change. In fact, I am wary of art being put to utilitarian uses and being asked to fit a “useful” application in society.

Art is. And often is outside matters of written law. It delves into the chaotic, strange, odd, and unresolved aspects of humanity and being. It dives into the complications of love. It battles for a country’s soul through poetic means. It wrestles the spirit. It questions, sometimes, the meaning of religion. It embraces faith.

Art is unruly. It resists governance. 

It is by nature transgressive. Artistic truth is resistant to consensus.

To write is an act of intervention.

“Here,” Art says, “is difference. Look.”

The spectator

After Ranciere, how do we look when we look?

In The Emancipated Spectator, Jacques Ranciere, in Gregory Elliott’s translation, argues that looking can be dangerous, for “To be a spectator is to be separated from both the capacity to know and the power to act.” He further posits that the “established relations between seeing, doing, and speaking” (original emphasis) is troubled by spectatorship. In other words, to be a spectator of performance is not a passive act. It is not devoid of effort. It demands that the spectator free themselves of consensus in viewing a work, and thus, be free to engage in his/her/trans experience of a work, and ultimately engage in scenes of dissensus.

Every moment in live performance is in some way unstable and open to multiple and differing modes of interpretation and engagement (The unruly nature of art!), unless the makers of the performance seek a passive response.

One could argue that work made for mass consumption—aiming for unilateral lowest common denominator acceptance is profoundly apolitical, for it does not seek a true commons, where voices of differences and the redistribution of those voices allows for healthy dissensus.

As Jean-Luc Nancy says, “One could extrapolate from Ranciere that art is a means (and perhaps the most common one, considering all the forms of knowledge and power) of understanding our communal existence and the very modes of being in-common (what brings us together and what separates us).”[1]

So, how does the spectator look?

Another way to ask this question is: How do we witness?

Trouble in mind

The desire to tell a story and to retell a story arises out of a need to bear witness and ask others to do so. Whether I retell Iphigenia’s story of sacrifice through the lens of the Ciudad Juarez murders in Iphigenia Crash Land Falls on the Neon Shell That Was Once Her Heart (a rave fable) or the stories of impoverished fishermen trying to eke out a life and living along the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill disaster in The Way of Water or the story of a couple traversing time and space to try to understand the nature of love after all wars in Archipelago, I write out of stuff that troubles, and I ask those that come to the work as collaborators and as an audience to engage in these troubles in mind. At day’s end, I hope that something does change an audience member’s way of looking, seeing, and hearing the world after they have experienced the work, regardless of whether the work is immersive in conception or performed in a proscenium house.

Will that little bit of change make them vote differently one day for a referendum or a candidate?

Will they, because of having experienced the work, treat their fellow citizens and neighbors better? 

Will they be walking down the supermarket aisle one day, and suddenly think about how their life is not so different, in the essence of humanity, from that of Iphigenia?

Art does not know how it will effect change. Or whether the change will be immediate or long-lasting. Or if any change, beyond one of momentary perception, will occur.

Art is a gamble. As is life.

You make a motion. You raise a voice or two. You trouble the trouble. And see.

This thing of beauty

I walk down the same streets every day.

I walk out the door and hardly look. My mind is aflush with all that must be done. Errands, meetings, and the busy-ness of life make up my day.

Occasionally, what seems out of the “ordinary” or “usual” will catch my eye or make me look at the streets I think I know so well anew.

Sometimes these moments of reawakening make their way into my writing.

Sometimes they are forgotten after a night’s sleep.

And sometimes they resurface days or weeks later in midst of a conversation or an article such as this.

I am thinking a lot about beauty and art these days, about the so-called seeming lack of social efficacy of beauty. You know, art and its purpose and those things that make up the heart of what we do.

Isn’t it enough to put beauty in the world? However rough and unusual it may be?

I am thinking about the poster for the movie 2 Guns starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg and why it seems to demand passivity from me as a potential spectator of the film, and yet how, instead, the poster just makes me angry. Really, still, marketing the image of men holding weapons gunslinger-style is considered viable and even sexy?

Eight months have passed since the instigation of the first gun control theater action and the publication of the 24 Gun Control Plays. It has been the summer of highly covered trials in the media—Bradley Manning, Ariel Castro, George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case—and the Hawaii to Hong Kong to Moscow travails of Edward Snowden. It has also been the one year anniversary of the massacre in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

Life moves on.

And soon, perhaps, all of this will be forgotten.

Despite tragedies sustained and moments of inquiry and outrage.

Art’s job, one of its jobs, is to record. To look and remember. To rail against—humbly, provocatively, aggressively, or by tender means—what is/will be forgotten.

In some ways, making a piece of art is about catching the moment.

Even if no one’s looking.


Isn’t that a beautiful thing?



[1] Jean Luc-Nancy, “Jacques Ranciere and Metaphysics,” trans. by John Hurley, in Jacques Ranciere, ed. Gabriel Rockhill and Philip Watts (Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press, 2009), 92.

- See more at:

Dear Readers,

Thank you again for your support of launching our New York Gun Control Theater Action this past April. As the date for the world action approaches (May 27th- June 2nd) we want to remind everyone that anyone can acquire the rights to perform the plays.

This is the way that I chose to experiment with directing and presenting an online New Media Action.

This GTCA was done on 24 hours of pre-production. A SAG new media agreement was secured free of charge as actors donated their time and there was only a budget of $50 to make the film (we ended up spending closer to $90 total on renting a tripod and transportation of equipment). August Schulenburg and I worked to determine details of line breakdown and editing. Casting was done via email and includes many actors who had been involved in previous GTCA's. A mother and daughter acting team Anna Orlova Flores (also one of  NYTR's photographers) and her daughter Raquel Flores joined the cast of; Rachael Hip- Flores, William Oliver Watkins, August Schulenburg (who is also a talented actor), Yvette Heyliger (also a GTCA playwright and activist), Laura Zam (also a GTCA playwright), Aaron Simms, Michael Niederman (playwright and elementary school teacher) and myself. 

DP Tine DiLucia and I filmed this in my bedroom against a white wall using 2 Omni Lights, Gels, and Canon EOS 5D Mark III (all on loan from School of Visual Arts). NYTR assistant Jacob Sexton assistant directed. The costs of making the film included: bottled water to keep actors hydrated as the lights were very hot, ingredients to make vegan soups (in a crock pot), snacks, ($50) transportation of video equipment ($20) and a tripod rental ($20)

Actors worked on set for roughly 30-60 minutes per shoot. Lines were posted on cue cards or simply fed to performers before each take.    

I edited this footage over 4 days (mostly after 10pm or at 6am), using Imovie, (a program similar to Final Cut X) that comes with most Mac Operating Systems.

We did this in this way because the idea came up suddenly and schedules only permitted us to do it immediately with what resources we had at our disposal. But, to me, that is what action is- doing something because you can not wait, because it can not wait. Yes, we were lucky to have professional equipment available to us. But we could have shot on flip cams or cell phones or laptops with natural light. Yes, we could have edited in Final Cut, had we been able to find an affordable download to work with at home late at night. But we didn't. Because we wanted it to be as do-able as possible, so that others could find ways to do it too.

Here is the result:

For more info on obtaining the free rights to stage a GTCA please visit:

Free Event: Gun Control Theatre Action at Fremont Centre Theatre


Published: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 | 3:14 PM

An evening of short plays being produced to be part of the national reflection upon and discussion of gun control issues will be presented for one night only at Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave. (at El Centro), South Pasadena, CA 91030 on Saturday, June 1, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free. Donations accepted. There is abundant free parking behind the theatre. Estimated running time is 75 minutes. Information: (626) 441-5977. For more about Fremont Theatre visit

Steve Apostolina, who co-wrote the recent “The Snow Queen” at Fremont Centre Theatre, directs a cast for Gun Control Theatre Action 2013 that includes Kimberly Y. Bailey, Eileen Galindo, Bridget Hoffman, McKerrin Kelly, Tony Maggio, Jemal McNeil and Dale Sandlin.

Gun Control Theatre Action 2013 features works written by Elaine Avila, Alex Broun, Cecilia Copeland, Amina Henry, Yvette Heyliger, Zac Kline, Neil LaBute, Lynn Manning, Oliver Mayer, Chiori Miyagawa, Winter Miller, Ian Rowlands, August Schulenburg, Caridad Svich, and Chris Weikel.

Invitation: Erik Ehn, Caridad Svich and their Collaborators

 Elaine Avila

Introduction to AMERICAN QUARTET by Zac Kline


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.



Zac Kline

NoPassport Dramaturge

Los Angeles, California Winter 2013