Frank Theatre tackles Gulf Coast tragedies in 'The Way of Water'

Categories: Theater
WayOfWater.jpg
Photo by Tony Nelson
Hope Cervantes, H. Adam Harris, Eric Sharpe and Emily Zimmer in The Way of Water.
In Caridad Svich's The Way of Water, the four characters have found their lives turned inside out by a string of real-world disasters, including Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. Their part of the Gulf Coast, in fact, has been in the news again as the recent Hurricane Isaac pounded that part of the country, almost exactly seven years after Katrina. 

"It's the same groups of people being devastated," says Wendy Knox, the founder of Frank Theatre and director of the company's production of the play, which opens this weekend at the Playwrights' Center. 

Frank did Svich's Alchemy of Desire/Dead-Man's Blues back in 1997, and the playwright has remained on the company's radar. Her work has also been part of the Mixed Blood Theatre stage, with a production of The House of Spirits and the upcoming In the Time of Butterflies

"Last spring, she contacted all these theaters to see if they wanted to do a staged reading around April," Knox says. The play, about the continued fallout from the BP oil spill on the gulf coast, certainly fit Frank's M.O., but a string of personal losses and a knee replacement had Knox laid up for most of the first half of the year.

Still, in the script "she did a lovely job of telling the story of the four people and the impact felt by real people disproportiantly affected by these tragedies," Knox says.

Frank staged a reading and found that the piece quickly connected with the audience, including a group of alternative high school students. "They were awesome. They said, 'You gotta do this play!'"

Part of the impact is that the issues -- including race, class, environmental impacts, and the country's flawed health-care system -- emerge from the characters. She makes her points, but they are wrapped in the stories and the characters," Knox says. 

Still, the issues have given Knox, the cast, and the other creators plenty of territory to research, which is common with Frank productions. 

"It becomes a giant research project, which is fun. The actors love to do that. What films and movies and books and music can we find? The sharing of information is important," Knox says. "We are trying to eat up as much as we can about that area, whether it is an essay in an academic journal or a movie like Beasts of the Southern Wild. We try to understand what it is and then put it through the Frank mill."

The company includes Hope Cervantes, H. Adam Harris, Eric Sharp, and Emily Zimmer.

"I don't know if theater can change the world, but it can change minds. This is a good story with good writing, and is a really interesting way to explore a part of the world," Knox says.

IF YOU GO

The Way of Water
September 14-30
Playwrights' Center
2301 Franklin Ave. E., Minneapolis
$18-$22
For information, call 612.724.3760 or visit online

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The Playwrights' Center

2301 Franklin Ave. E., Minneapolis, MN

Category: General

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