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THE WAY OF WATER at Ramapo College of New Jersey

by Peter A. Campbell, Associate Professor of Theatre History and Criticism

We have been lucky to have Caridad on campus a few times this year, as she was selected as a Schomburg Visiting Artist at Ramapo College in Mahwah, New Jersey, at the border of New York State and about 25 minutes drive from the George Washington Bridge.  My students were already familiar with her work, as she had visited several classes and did a talk on her translation of Blood Wedding, which was performed on campus in March.

When Caridad first gave me the play, in January, I was struck by the voices and their political power.  The tension in communication, the intensity of the relationships, in a time of tension and intensity.  The struggles to love under the pressures of life.  The universality of it.

But what happened in our reading was that the actors and the audience saw the specificity of these renderings, and especially of their place and time.  And that specificity allowed them to also see the specific political and social problems that the play addresses.

Mahwah means “meeting place,” and fulfills that definition in many ways.  Historically it has been a meeting place for armies in battle and in making peace; it is still a boundary line of sorts for the Ramapough Mountain Indian Nation and the states of New Jersey and New York.

But most resonant in terms of The Way of Water is that Mahwah is where the Mahwah River meets the Ramapo River, which runs through some of the most populous areas of northern New Jersey.   These rivers have a history of being polluted, most famously by a Ford plant in Mahwah that produced more than 6 million cars and dumped most of its waste in the river.  The Ramapo River downstream of the plant was designated a Superfund site in 1982, and continues to be polluted with lead, arsenic, and other chemicals that still seep into the groundwater and the river basin.  More recently, Hurricane Irene caused several oil trucks from upstream in Sloatsburg to be dumped in the river.  The entire basin, which eventually empties into New York Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean, remains highly polluted, and with every new incident of flooding there are warnings of polluted groundwater, parks, and playgrounds.

So our reading, then, in this context, had its own specificity.  We live in a place where the discussion of water and its safety is second nature.

The students reading the play, and those who made up most of our audience, were quite struck by the way that the play roots out political and public activity through the everyday lives and conversations of the characters.  The characters are genuine, idiosyncratic, unusual, poetic.  And powerful.  The actors were excited to be able to give them voice.  And the response from our audience was of shock and recognition, of the currency of the play and the issues at hand.  As one student audience member noted, the staged reading was a powerful tool in engaging the audience to think about the spill and its effects without being preachy or pedantic:

"It is a story about…people in helpless, life-or-death situations.  The drama was realistic and believable leading me to wonder how much research Svich put into her work.  Were the characters based on real stories that she had read about or seen on the news?  Even though it was only a reading, the actors were still able to deliver strong performances that enhanced the serious dilemmas of the four men and women.  The dialogue was naturalistic in the way that average people would talk about the spill and their problems. 

Despite my enjoyment of the material, I never became so completely immersed in it that I forgot about the big picture.  None of the drama enfolding in front of me would have occurred if not for a man-made disaster.  Instead of performing it as a full play, the four actors simply sat on stools and read from scripts…The lack of theatricality is a constant reminder to the audience of the play’s messages.  It never…allows you to forget about the spill and its effects.

I was also impressed by the knowledge I was able to obtain without realizing I was being taught.  As ridiculous as that sounds, I never knew of the hazardous effects of the chemicals that were used to clean up the area and disperse the oil.  A 16 year-old boy was killed in the play by these chemicals.  Again, by cleverly working this point into the never-unrealistic conversations, the play was able to inform without preaching, for which I was quite grateful.”

This was a special experience for our campus and our community, one that gave us the chance to learn about those distant but not so far away.  We are grateful to Caridad and No Passport for giving us the opportunity.


The Way of Water by Caridad Svich was read at Ramapo College’s Adler Theater Berrie Center for the Arts on April 10th, 2012. The cast included Christopher Kent (Jimmy), Vanessa Rappa (Rosalie), Frank Hughes III (Yuki) and Melissa Mugica (Neva). Directed by Peter A. Campbell with sound by Nick Cornwell.

KUHF Houston Public Radio

public radio news & information twenty four hours a day from houston, tx. Follow link to hear the complete interview.

"The Way of Water"

Playwright Caridad Svich and Houston stage-director Rob Kimbro talk about Ms. Svich’s play The Way of Water, written in response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Theater companies across the country are presenting staged readings of the drama, marking the second anniversary of the nation’s worst environmental disaster in history. The local reading takes place at Main Street Theater’s Chelsea Market playhouse.

Caridad Svich and Rob Kimbro talk with St.John Flynn.

AMERICAN JORNALERO a play by Ed Cardona Jr.


Preview Edition now available from NoPassport Press:
a play by Ed Cardona Jr.
This new play by playwright Ed Cardona Jr., premiered at INTAR in New York City in May 2012, focuses on the plight of a group of day laborers/jornaleros in Queens. A portrait of the intersecting transient lives in the search for a daily wage in a land of many compromised American dreams. A compassionate, clear-eyed and illuminating look at lives and people too often ignored in the US landscape, AMERICAN JORNALERO is a vibrant play.
Retail Price: $10
Paperback, print on demand
Published by NoPassport Press.


by Jesus A. Reyes, Creative Director

I love staged readings. I find them to be exciting – at least they can be. So, when Caridad Svich asked if EAST LA REP would consider participating in her “scheme” to present staged readings of her play The Way of Water, I immediately said yes!

I love staged readings because I’ve had some of the best times directing staged readings. The art of the staged reading is so particular and not any actor can pull it off. Actors in staged readings have to be extremely confident and flexible. They have to be courageous and be ready to put their ego aside. These actors have to rely on their technical skills 100% and you can always tell when an actor is not having fun during a staged reading.

The staged reading, be it in-house and private or for public consumption, is a great way to take risks, to hear new work, to hear new actors, to stretch the imagination muscle of actors, directors and audience alike. When I lived and worked in the Bay Area I was so fortunate to be on the directors’ roster for Jim Kleinmann’s company, Playground. Playground is an amazing opportunity for Bay Area playwrights to master the art of the 10-minute play but also for the actors and directors to have fun and support the text. Annie Stuart is the casting director for Playground and had an incredible sense of the actors that can pull it off and roll with the staged reading process. With a days notice, the actors and director have only an hour and a half to digest, discuss and stage a reading before a paying audience that evening. It’s exhilarating to work with the playwright in the room and the actors, all just going for it.

I admit that I was moved to work on The Way of Water because of the sense of responsibility to put the work and words out there that were inspired by the 2010 BP oil spill. To present a play that took the devastation and immediate aftermath of this event and gave life and voice to four characters affected by it. To make it work for EAST LA REP we wanted to tie-in Los Angeles and during our initial conversations of the play, we found out about high toxic levels in the nearby community of Huntington Park. So the plan was to take part of the public “toxic tours” that a local organization conducts and perform excerpts of the play to complement, to connect and to inform the tour participants. As a company we had always been pretty good at performing outdoors and site-specific and this was a great next step to that process. To work with an organization  and a community in a more direct way then just offering comps or half-price admission. For the first time we would be on the front lines. Then it didn’t happen.

The opportunity fell through but we were committed to be part of this important international scheme and had to figure out how to proceed. The obvious choice was to present a traditional staged reading at our home venue. Then the idea came, to take the excerpts and film them as monologues, The Way of Water Project was born. We pulled together a diverse cast of seven, a cast that represents some of the diversity of East Los Angeles. From the get go we told the actors that they did not have to memorize their lines, some did, because they are very committed, but it was not necessary. I wanted to capture that staged reading rawness from live performances and put them on film. I absolutely love the craft in progress, as actors look at their pages and make choices. Bold choices, interesting choices, dangerous choices. They dig deep into their experience and use what they have to tell the story. It’s risky but so much more of the moment. I wanted us to capture some of that on film so we emailed the actors their sides a day or two prior to the scheduled filming and went for it. Two, three takes is all we filmed for each. We discovered that the prayer that was sung originally didn’t quite gel with the footage filmed afterwards, so we re-shot it. We discovered that one of the monologues was more effective if we split it into two. Each and every actor involved gave their time and talent to this project. The director Alejandra Cisneros along with each and every actor we asked to participate was chosen because of their strength and willingness to jump off the staged reading cliff with us.

Something that was also new to us was premiering the shorts on our group Facebook page. Because EAST LA REP is in the midst of changing its model from a theatre company to a creative center, it made sense for us to try something new, something unknown. We still get emails and posts from people telling us that they loved the video they saw and can’t wait to attend the reading. Sorry, that was the reading. Once all eight shorts premiere, a full-length version that ties all the shorts together will be featured. This full-length version will also be new for us, a new way of telling the story that is a full-length play via social media.

Last night, I was at a play and ran into one of the actors that participated. He mentioned how he wished that maybe, the actors should have been off book. He pointed to one of the actors that was completely memorized and how effective that was for him. I replied that indeed, that actor’s work, along with the one or two other actors that were memorized, was very good, and for the full-length version it will be such an interesting balance of storytelling, but, his work along with that of the actors that were not off book was just as effective. The way each actor committed to his words. The way each actor made choices. The way each actor found rhythm and language. The way each actor looked down at his script when he/she needed to and stayed in character – that was amazing – that is theatre – this is the one way to get a sense of what live theatre is like but on a screen. The Way of Water Project was not to be a film or a documentary; it was meant to be a staged reading on a small screen.    

I just posted the fifth short out of eight, so we are sort of half-way to the finish line. I thank Caridad Svich for asking EAST LA REP to be part of this incredible experience. I thank her for being incredibly brave to let us take excerpts and re-arrange her play. I thank her for allowing us to take the poetry, drama and politics of her play, The Way of Water, and letting us share it online. I must also thank my cohorts at EAST LA REP for their continued support in this time of transition. Finally, I thank the creative team that made The Way of Water Project so memorable, director Alejandra Cisneros and the actors, Carla Valentine, Anthony Aguilar, Blake Kushi, Raquel Sanchez, Juan Ramirez, Lynn Haro Martinez-Arvilla and Juan E. Carrillo. Oh, and extra special thanks to all those brave ones that go mano-a-mano with the staged reading.

Jesus A. Reyes, Creative Artistic Director, EAST LA REP

The Way of Water by Caridad Svich was read at East LA Rep on April 21st, 2012 as part of its Necessary Conversations Series, directed by Alejandra Cisneros.


KSFR-FM Radio Cafe and Theatre Paraguas Ensemble


KSFR-FM Radio Cafe interview with Mary Charlotte Domandi and The Way of Water ensemble, broadcast Wednesday, April 18. link to podcast

Teatro Paraguas presents a staged reading of THE WAY OF WATER a new play by Caridad Svich which focuses on the lives of two Louisiana couples in the aftermath of the BP Gulf oil spill in April 2010. Over 50 readings are taking place around the country and the world in April. 8:00 pm. Free, donations welcome.


Aditi Brennan Kapil on THE WAY OF WATER


by Aditi Brennan Kapil

I had the privilege of experiencing The Way of Water as it was being created, hearing installments nightly in our Lark Play Development Center Winter Writers Group. What struck me first about Caridad's play was the gorgeous, authentic, poetic language in which her characters lived their lives. I was already completely in love with them when I discovered that the world was rotting away their food source and their bodies. That's the gift of this play, Caridad's ability to anchor something as large and incomprehensible as environmental disaster in the humanity that both caused it and is being destroyed by it. To see us all as part of this greater organism, it's powerful, it's gorgeous, it's chilling.

Aditi Brennan Kapil is an actress, writer, and director of Bulgarian and Indian descent. She was raised in Sweden, and resides in Minneapolis, MN. She has performed extensively in the Twin Cities and around the country, her writing has been nationally produced to critical acclaim. For more of Aditi's current projects, check out her website


THE WAY OF WATER at Ball State University

By Wendy Mortimer, Director and Associate Professor

When Caridad invited us to be part of the International Reading Scheme, I immediately said, "Yes." Because it was Caridad. The way she uses language to explore and reveal the edges of human relationships, our relationship to the earth and to our ancestors resonates in ways that are universal. Add to this the possibility of offering a strong example of theatre for social change, and adding our voices to the larger global issue of the right to access of clean water... and it seemed like the perfect storm.
Due to limited resources and an already overloaded production calendar, we opted for the reading to reach the university community rather than focus on outreach to the local community. The reading was simple, with actors using only the language to bring the characters and their unimaginable realities to life in the space between each other and the audience. 
The many actors, directors, designers, stage managers, theatre education majors that attended the reading were shocked to hear about the ramifications of the efforts of the "clean-up" and struggled to match this new knowledge with what they'd been reading in the papers. 
Since the reading, students have been asking about how they can be a part of NoPassport and other socially aware theatre movements. And though the reading didn't reach into the larger community, it was heartening to hear students respond so fully to the writing, articulating how the imagery, truth, and depth is the type of text they'd like to work with. To a generation of actors that tends to focus on getting cast more on giving back, this proved to be a project that planted seeds in every single young artist in the audience... of what theatre can do, what it can reveal, the action it can inspire. This reading allowed students to look with new eyes at the country they thought they knew. There are ripples now where the water was once still. 
And that is a great, great thing here in rural Indiana. 
I cannot thank NoPassport enough for this piece, their extreme generosity in opening it up to the community in the form of this reading scheme, and for the development of a company with a laudable mission statement. 
I look forward to future reading schemes that will undoubtedly allow us to create more interdisciplinary relationships and also reach into the local community. 
In regards to the actors involved, it is the strongest work I've ever seen them do. The rhythms in the text, the intricacies in the relationships both onstage and when speaking of ancestors brought out in the actors a vibrancy that held the audience for the entire length of the reading. It was thrilling to see/hear them soar - focusing only on the language (no light cues, set, sound - just the words into the space). 
Thank you, thank you, thank you for the opportunity to reach towards the upcoming generation of BFA students - for broadening their definition of possibility in the arts.
The Way of Water by Caridad Svich, was read at Ball State University on April 23rd, 2012, directed by Wendy Mortimer.

Playwright Vern Thiessen on THE WAY OF WATER

by Vern Thiessen, Playwright

This past December, it was my great privilege to work together with a group of playwrights at the Lark New Play Development Centre's winter retreat.  Within six sessions spread over a short period, each of us created a play and shared it with the others. The group was diverse and the work eclectic.  One of those plays was THE WAY OF WATER. Every week (and sometimes twice) I bore witness not only to Caridad's play being created, but also to a world unveiled, to lives unravelled, to secrets unearthed, to dreams broken, to change taking hold. Watching that play being born was - and remains - a profound theatre experience for me. Perhaps because of the time lag I experienced between scenes, I became obsessed with the play and its people. I thought about them, worried for them, dreamt about them and wondered what would happen to them between readings.  I am not a fan of serial television. I don't get "hooked" on shows as a rule. But Caridad's play lured and hooked me, like the fish the play's characters are so desperately trying to catch. And like the oil to those fish, I too became infected with something, not poison, but an outrage that I rarely feel in the theatre. LIke an Ibsen or Churchill play, THE WAY OF WATER asks difficult questions, not only of its characters, but of its audience. The questions still linger with me.  I will never look at a stream, a river, a lake, or an ocean the same way.

Vern Thiessen is one of Canada's most produced playwrights. His plays have been seen across Canada, the United States, Asia, the United Kingdon, the Middle East, and Europe. Website:

THE WAY OF WATER at the National Theater Institute

by Georgina Escobar

I got an email from Caridad early this year in which she introduced me to this project and asked, ‘would the National Theater Institute be up for staging a reading?’ Sure, I thought. Not really knowing the scheduling and ends and ways of the National Theater Institute
But I read the script and loved it. Immediately, I hurried down the steps of the old Hammond Mansion at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center to the little office at the end of the hallway. “NTI”. Known for their infamous slogan “Risk. Fail. Risk Again.” My solitary days at the O’Neill consist of being on the third floor with the rest of the Literary Office team. There, surrounded by books, acting as guardians of text and words, we seldom see the inner-workings of our sister entities on campus. I felt it was necessary to create that bridge. I took the script to the Artistic Director and she assured me it was something wonderful, for a great cause, worth doing and very fitting to NTI’s aesthetic of surprising the students and the community with bold new play readings from writers-in-residence, or in this case, Caridad Svich.
The National Theater Institute is a conservatory of theater in which twenty to thirty students submerge themselves in the solitary grounds of the Eugene O’Neill for thirteen weeks to study theater. They work seven days a week, a minimum of ten-hours a day refining their skills in acting, directing, playwriting, movement, voice amongst others.  Because of the intense atmosphere it also breeds a sort of silent community that is palpable when you first set foot on the grounds. I believe this was probably what happened to Caridad when she first arrived, an honorary guest to her reading of “Way of Water” on Earthday weekend. You would expect a natural fuzz and buzz to follow such great combination, but this is the O’Neill. People here love the intimate. Our audiences expect rough, expect process, expect breakthroughs.
That was exactly what happened on that Saturday. The actors met for the first time a few hours before lunch-time. The script had been slightly re-written after a reading at the Lark, so I was literally handing them material as they walked through the door. I was nervous. In all honesty I believed this was an NTI event. I had passed the torch, and given them my Mexican blessing—which consists of making the sign of the cross mid-air as if casting a sort of minor magic. But it is common amongst this community of artists for us to always think as collaborators. I jumped in. I wanted the reading to show the words, I wanted the actors to convey the message, I wanted the audience to be as moved as I was when I read it. I wanted the audience to walk out of there and say: I want to make a difference and I don’t know how. Then I wanted them to go out and research and get informed, and find ways to pay attention. I wanted this piece to change their world. 
And just like that catholic gesture cast upon them that day, the reading proved itself to be a form of minor magic itself. It cast its own charm. The actors, reading it for the first time where possessed by the immaculate crafting of the cadence and beats and rhythms and moods. The audience danced along. The intimate Dina Merril Theater (a black box that is actually a BLUE box due to its initial venture into becoming a Television/Film studio) transformed itself into the world of the play.
Between acts, I stumbled outside and asked my friend and Literary Manager if he could moderate the talk-back, he does it every summer within our Conferences. ‘No’ he said, ‘You can do it.’
But I wanted to know everything! Moderate? That sounds nothing like me. I wanted to ask Caridad about her process, about character construction, about impact, about the future of this campaign, about her thoughts on how theater can change the collective consciousness on environmental awareness. I wanted to know it all. When the time to ‘moderate’ came, all the questions seemed to sum up into one: “Why Now?” and immediately I made quick eye contact with Caridad and I could have sworn that within both of us the answer was “Well. Why NOT.” She elevated the simple answer and allowed her audience into the world of her plays, reaching out to some far back and speaking of the importance of revisiting forms of writing that were present early on. She spoke of the importance of being aware of our worlds crisis’ at all times, because we are artists, because we are creators, because we are alive. This was better than a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter day for the NTI students. This is what we crave: to be told that all of us are connected and have a sense of purpose. I could feel their bodies lean in as Caridad spoke of the creation of character and her journey as a writer. Then people asked such things as ‘what’s next?’ ‘will this be presented in those affected communities’ and ‘how do you know when to let go of something you’ve written.’ The questions and conversation varied and the intimate blue-box felt suddenly like a campfire.
Jorge Luis Borges states in the last line of one of his poems; “Everything happens for the first time, but in a way that is eternal. Whoever reads my words is inventing them.” That night we met up with some audience members at the local Dutch Tavern and it was evident then as it was at the theater, this piece will go on to change people, and as it happens simultaneously with colleges and communities around the world, this message and those words will happen for the first time, but in a way that is….eternal.
Georgina H. Escobar, M.F.A
Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Literary Office
The Way of Water by Caridad Svich was read on April 21, 2012 at the National Theater Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center.

THE WAY OF WATER in Pretoria, South Africa

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.