INSIDE WASTWATER Part 1: Why This Play? Why Now?

INSIDE WASTWATER Part 1: Why This Play? Why Now?

Lighting Design rendering by Brandon Wardell 

In this 4-part feature, PerformInk continues it’s INSIDE series and takes you behind the scenes of Steep’s production of WASTWATER, directed by Robin Witt.

Part 1: Why This Play? Why Now?
By Robin Witt 

Hello and thanks for checking out the WASTWATER blogWASTWATER will be the fourth Simon Stephens play I have directed for Steep Theatre, where I’m an ensemble member and where Simon is an associate playwright. He is one of the most produced and respected playwrights in the UK, but most American audiences will know him for his Tony Award-winning adaptation of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME. Steep and I keep returning to his work for so many reasons. I am mesmerized, as it seems I always am, by his exquisite and complex storytelling. In Wastwater, we find many of the themes and motifs that haunt Simon’s work: loneliness, alienation, family, travel, the distancing effect of technology, the rabbit hole that is pornography, and in WASTWATER—most particularly—the devastating effects of climate change.

Wastwater

Lighting Design rendering by Brandon Wardell 

In Martin Rees’ 2003 book, Our Final Hour, the British astronomer predicts that there is a 50/50 chance that humankind will not survive the 21st century. Rees warns that “Collective human actions are transforming, even ravaging, the biosphere – perhaps irreversibly – through global warming and loss of biodiversity.” Simply stated, Rees believes we will perish if we do not take better care of our planet. Although aligning with Rees’ prophecy, in WASTWATER Simon exhibits a tremendous amount of faith in what Rees would say is a threatened existence. In the play we see tremulous, gentle recognitions of the power of family, the promise and astonishment of travel, and the dire, vulnerable need for human connection. In interviews Simon has stated that in his writing he seeks to sustain his faith in humanity, believing that the sustenance of that faith comes from “looking into the heart of darkness.”

Wastwater

Lighting Design rendering by Brandon Wardell 

I acknowledge WASTWATER is a dark and fearsome play. But the darkness is not gratuitous or merely provocative. It is politic in the deepest sense: it is a play that scrutinizes, ponders, appraises what it is like to live in the early part of the 21st century, a century that is perhaps doomed if we do not take better care of each other.

About author

Robin Witt

Robin Witt is an ensemble member director at both Steep and Griffin Theatres. Her work has received numerous accolades including the 2015 Jeff Award for best director. She is a graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts (BFA) and Northwestern University (MFA). Robin is an Assistant Professor at UNC Charlotte.

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