Question: How did this ‘global reading scheme’ with the NoPassport theatre alliance and your play come about? Is this something you have always wanted to do?
CARIDAD SVICH in reply: I founded NoPassport theatre alliance and press in 2003. The alliance publishes new writing and translations, stages national theatre conferences, and serves as an advocacy group for artists who work with and about cross-cultural expressions of diversity and difference. NoPassport is unincorporated and really, at day's end, a collective of artists and scholars. Yet, for me personally as founder, the goal has always been to try to generate an international project somehow. Between April and June of 2012, my play THE WAY OF WATER, which is set in the aftermath of Deepwater Horizon disaster, received 50 readings across the US and around the world to commemorate the disaster, as far as Pretoria, South Africa, Toronto, Waterloo (Canada), Berlin, London, Glasgow, Wales, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo and Tasmania, Australia (at the University of Tasmania School of Performance and Visual Arts). It was the first global reading scheme NoPassport ever attempted, and it was galvanizing in ways unexpected. You can check out our webpage at http://www.nopassport.org/wayofwater
For me, the scheme combined my twin goals as artist and activist and a bigger idea that I'd been thinking about for some time about how to engage directly and creatively with communities at the national and international level through a much more grass-roots, lo-fi way of sharing theatre-work.
As a playwright, often, much time is spent waiting and waiting to put a play on, when in fact you are writing to a specific cultural moment always. Rarely does the work meet its cultural moment, unless you're doing street or guerrilla theatre, when trying to put a play on, simply because of the logistics of funding, hierarchies of theatre season planning and programming, etc. So, for me, the scheme, which as really an activist intervention and kind of dare, shifted the paradigm a bit. I felt truly emboldened by the responses from THE WAY OF WATER scheme and somehow felt, as I was writing SPARK, which is the third play in an American quartet of plays which includes THE WAY OF WATER, if it would be at all possible to dare another scheme again and find collaborating partners in this shared ritual project.
The play itself SPARK came about because I was thinking about both the recent, ongoing Iraq and Afghanistan wars and how little of the theatre and artworks related to these wars, at least from the US perspective, have focused on the plight of women and specifically female veterans. I was also thinking about the continual class divide in the US, the gap which is ever greater between the haves and have-littles, and especially in the southern US, how issues of class and economic disparity are magnified - there is, in effect, less social mobility in the south because of deeply entrenched class divisions, than in other parts of the US. I also wanted to write a play about sisters - something I hadn't done before - to pay homage a little bit to Chekhov, as it were - and to look at a female-centred household as the focus of the play.
Question: With the play itself, have you yourself been touched by the loss experienced with war?
CARIDAD SVICH in reply: Over the years, I have written many plays that deal with men and women in war or water's aftermath. As a pacifist, exploring the traumas of war on human beings and the earth we inhabit - the damage wars wage on the very ecology of our communities, eco-systems and more - has been central to my writing in one way or another for a long time. One of my early plays ALCHEMY OF DESIRE/DEAD-MAN'S BLUES is about a young widow grieving the loss of her husband killed in a recent war. A huge component of my work as a playwright has also engaged with contemporary reconfigurations of ancient Greek tragedies, and well, if you look at Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, there are plenty of war stories there! My family's background is in Cuba, Argentina, Spain and Croatia. My mom went through the Cuban revolution, my dad's family went through the dirty wars in Argentina, and I have family members who suffered under Franco's rule in Spain and during the Balkan wars as well. So, the fact of war (civil or otherwise) has always been in my family's history. I have also had students who have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their stories have been part of my creative writing classes. The fact that the US has been in Afghanistan for 11 years is significant, and yet, there is very little coverage - in print or multiple media platforms - about the war here. It, and the Iraq war as well, have become "theoretical" to a great many in the collective US consciousness. The highest suicide rate amongst veterans are those returning from these wars, and the rate of homelessness among female veterans is also very high. The alienation and disaffection felt by many of our veterans is clear. Although there are many war stories to be told and that have been told, I wanted to contribute somehow to the dialogue theatrically, because history keeps repeating, doesn't it? And it's up to the artist-citizens to keep reminding us who we are and why, and indeed, to not forget.
Question: Or what was inspiration for writing the play?
CARIDAD SVICH in reply: This play was written on the heels of THE WAY OF WATER. It shares themes of dispossession, trauma, and economic disparity, and a focus on small town communities and families in danger of being or feeling as if they have been left behind as they struggle to remake and repair their lives.For me, SPARK is a much more ritualized play. Its use of original songs, and existing Army cadences, for one, place it in a much more heightened poetic terrain, even though on the surface, it may appear to be realism. It's a very tender play - fragile, gentle - in its structure and its sensibility. What I mean by that is that it looks at the little moments in people's lives against the backdrop of a larger social-historical moment, and that it treats its characters with affection and tenderness, despite their trouble and rage.
Question: What do you hope your play will achieve? Is it to highlight issues surrounding veterans of war, particularly women veterans?
CARIDAD SVICH in reply: I think plays are mysterious things. Honestly. I don't write "message" plays. At day's end. I may sometimes come from an activist intent when I make theatre pieces, but I believe theatre is poetry. It is a heightened form. Does it engage publically? Yes. It is a public art form. It is in the body politic. But it lives within and a little bit outside the body politic, at its best. It can transcend, hopefully, and not merely be a mirror. I hope SPARK can offer a space/place for healing. I hope it can stir a conversation about veterans, family, ties that bind, ties that wound. Yes, I do hope too it can highlight the plight of women veterans, and how so very often their stories are seen in the light.
Question: What other work do you have in the pipeline?
CARIDAD SVICH in reply: My play GUAPA, which is about US Latina family life and a young woman who wants to play soccer/football, receives its second and third productions soon as part of a National New Play Network rolling world premiere at Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis and Miracle Theatre Group in Portland, Oregon. My play, based on Gabriel Garcia Marquez' novel, LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA just premiered at Repertorio Espanol in NYC, where it is still running. I am working on the last play of this American Quartet of plays (that includes GUAPA, THE WAY OF WATER and SPARK) right now, and maybe another global scheme will occur?