Answering the Call
by Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Director of SPLASH HATCH ON THE E GOING DOWN
For our 2023-2024 season launch party, we asked for some remarks from Cheryl Lynn Bruce, the director of our first production, SPLASH HATCH ON THE E GOING DOWN. A Chicago-based director, actor and playwright, Cheryl appeared on Broadway in THE GRAPES OF WRATH, Off-Broadway in FROM THE MISSISSIPPI DELTA and has acted and directed at the Milwaukee Rep, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the Goodman Theatre, Victory Gardens Theatre, the Court Theatre and many others. She is the recipient of a Helen Hayes Award and a Jane Addams Hull House Association Woman of Valor Award, among others. Her remarks on SPLASH HATCH… are as follows:
It’s an honor to have been invited by Cody Estle, Next Act Theatre’s newly-minted Artistic Director, to put my shoulder to the plough and launch his inaugural season.
It’s a double-gift to have the chance to introduce Next Act audiences to the work of Kia Corthron, a distinctly inventive and most prescient voice in American Theatre.
I first heard that voice back in the early 90s.
It was at a Monday night play reading at Hartford Stage where I immediately fell under Kia’s artful spell and left determined to search out every play she’d ever written.
By the time I’d gobbled up what all I could find, I was a solid devotee of her work.
You see, Kia’s plays don’t tell me what to do.
No, they just reel me in with open-hearted characters caught up in arresting stories.
Then, they sound the alarm.
Some time later, I found myself serving as the late Walter Dallas’ Assistant Director for Goodman Theatre’s Studio production of Kia’s SEEKING THE GENESIS, a challenging piece about society’s dangerous and unchecked assumptions about Black boys and violence.
Walter briefly left on urgent business, so I was handed the reins. Kia was present during those rehearsals, and when she complimented my work, I think I levitated.
In fact, I’m sure I did.
Kia’s idiosyncratic syntax,
her quirky sentence structure,
punch up dialogue, but never distract.
Her novel way with words just gives scenes a jolt.
It’s kinda like that old Certs commercial exclaimed:
Two mints in one!
SPLASH HATCH ON THE E GOING DOWN is a stark call-to-arms, written at a time when far too few of us were willing to read the toxic writing on the wall.
While Greenpeace activists waged holy war in our name, many regarded them (if at all) as an anxious, overzealous fringe of passionate alarmists, and we looked on, a bit amused.
That was until
India’s ghastly Bhopal cyanide leak in ’84,
and Chernobyl’s terrifying nuclear disaster in ’86
and British Petroleum’s tragically avoidable oil spill in 2010 got our attention.
For a while.
What were we waiting for?
What are we still waiting for?
Here at home we have the inexcusable and avoidable Exxon Valdez oil spill, the catastrophic (and ongoing) water crisis in Flint, Michigan and the current outrage in the modest town of Anniston, Alabama, where the air, water and soil are so long-saturated with known cancer-causing toxins that contaminants now regularly show up in residents’ blood.
PFAS — “forever chemicals” — are man-made poisons.
Simple as that.
They are known to cause cancer and a host of other devastating health problems.
They are found in our air.
They are found in our drinking water.
They are found in our food.
Predictably, PFAS pollution disproportionately plagues poorer communities, but it poses a serious threat to rural, suburban and urban areas alike.
SPLASH HATCH… shows how a deadly thing—like Pollution—can seep silently into everyday life and, literally, eat us alive.
See, it really doesn’t matter where we live.
No one is safe because the Earth is everyone’s backyard.
SPLASH HATCH… is not prescriptive.
It doesn’t tell us what to do.
It simply grabs us by the heartstrings and gives us our marching orders.
Will we answer the call?
SPLASH HATCH ON THE E GOING DOWN runs September 20 – October 15, 2023 at Next Act Theatre. For tickets, click here or call (414) 278-0765.