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Reflections on THE WAY OF WATER from Berlin

by Ric Oquita

As a longtime admirer of Caridad’s work, I felt especially honored to have participated as an actor, portraying Jimmy, in the Berlin reading at the English Theatre directed by Jake Whitlen and accompanied by actors Nichola MacEvilly, Seamus Sargent and Katharina Sporrer.

It was an intense experience, given our roughly seven hours rehearsal together. We began with a conversation about the details of the oil spill, the aftermath and the current situation, to get a better understanding of its dreadful impact on the lives of the characters.

We read through the script, focusing primarily on keeping the images and humor in the text vivid. I was particularly interested in tracking when characters were taking a stand, withdrawing or vascillating from one moment to the next in regards to staying quiet or speaking out against the “Big Pigs”.

We had some time again to get on our feet and explore the physical life of the story. As a dancer, this is where I began to feel the language come alive and the ever present water and heat inform the musicality in the text. I kept the depths and impulses of the water close to me as Jimmy’s illness begins to surface and reveal itself physically.

My father was also very close to me in the process. I chose to draw on my father’s struggle with the onset of dementia as he fights to hold on to his memories, which often reveal themselves in dreams while he is awake. I see Jimmy also as a strong man fighting to hold on to his memories in a culture where amnesia is often celebrated.

40 people or so came out for the event. native German speakers for the most part who I felt were listening very intently to the story. Once the audience had gotten used to our voices and the richness of the text, their laughter came easily, especially after our intermission.

It also felt like, after intermission, we all felt the stakes burning in the room. There were moments of intense quiet, almost as if the audience was holding their collective breath, when everyone realized what was being lost. That happened for me anytime Jimmy surveyed the water and his property.

After the last moment, when Jimmy decides to protest, there was a breath and then a long, sustained applause from the audience. I'm certain actors in other readings felt the same lift in that last moment. It was joyous.

We were pleased with the reading and also felt a definite longing to live with the play longer. I wonder how the actors in other readings responded to that longing. For myself, the play went deep and my body needed a couple of days to recover from the experience. I feel that it has touched the actorvist in me, which I'd suspected had gone the way of water. It's been envigorating following postings from other participants on this blog. Thank you Caridad for your vision and for honoring, so eloquently, the people of Plaquemines Parish.

The Way of Water by Caridad Svich was read on May 13th, 2012 at the English Theatre Berlin in Germany.