Families. Fishermen. Town officials. Cleanup workers. These are just a few of the people and communities devastated by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010. Their stories will be dramatized next year in a new play called "Spill," written by Leigh Fondakowski in collaboration with visual artist Reeva Wortel. The production aims to answer the question, "What is the true human and environmental cost of oil?"
"Spill" — like Fondakowski's earlier play and HBO movie, "The Laramie Project" — is based on interviews with dozens of people living in and around the area affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The words of 30 real-life people will be incorporated directly into the production. President Barack Obama also plays a part, with words taken from his public statements during the crisis. Fondakowski told the New York Times that the interviews revealed stories that were not presented in the news. "The human story on the ground in Louisiana was much more profound than what I saw on TV," she said.
Artist Wortel traveled to Louisiana with Fondakowski, and her paintings of the interview subjects have been incorporated into the play.
"Spill" has been in the works since 2011, when the writer and artist raised more than $50,000 to conduct the interviews and complete the portraits. As Fondakowski wrote at the time, "The BP oil spill was one battle in an environmental war that is raging along the Gulf Coast. Our play and installation will give a human face and voice to this story and shed light on the issues of oil dependency and climate change that affect us all."
More than just a portrait of the explosion, "Spill" explores how oil has affected people in Louisiana for decades, serving to provide jobs and bring them out of poverty but also impacting their lifestyles in unexpected ways.
The play received some early workshops and staged readings in 2012, including performances at Wesleyan University, which commissioned the play. You can see Fondakowski talk about it, along with a few lines from the play, in this video:
The fully realized version of "Spill" will premier March 2014 in Baton Rouge at Louisiana State University's Swine Palace theater.
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