“Flint”: A New Play by José Casas, Asst. Professor of Theatre & Drama

[Music]>>The play Flint is an ethnographic,
documentary-style play that explores, not only the water crisis,
but other issues that are directly and indirectly associated with what
happened, issues that the community of Flint has struggled
with, like racism, social inequity, violence. And so I wanted to capture the story through
the narratives of people living in Flint. And I didn’t want to do a timeline play about
what happened– what happened, what happened– we all know what happened. I wanted to dig deeper. I interviewed over 100 people by myself. Most of the monologues in this play are the
interviews that I did. Whereas a couple other monologues are composites
of different interviews built into one character. But in this play, 100% of the dialogue comes
from people in Flint. It’s a good challenge for these students because
they’re being asked to, first of all, portray real people, but also multiple characters, and characters that can be as young as 18,
and as old as 80. And one thing I will not allow, even though
they’ve asked, if they could see a video or [hear] the audio of the people I interviewed, and I say no. I want you to create this fictional character
that’s based on them. Get into those shoes, and really do that work. Get to understand not only their monologues, but the situations that they live in currently.>>Knowing that we’re performing for these
people that we’re portraying, and that this is an ongoing crisis– it really has just heightened the stakes of the work that we’re doing. It’s allowed us to understand that we have– we have a lot of responsibility as performers to share really important stories.>>Once you’re able to take their story and
put it on your vessel, and be able to try to get an understanding
through research and empathy, and not sympathy and pity, it changes the whole paradigm of how we think
about our situations, and realizing that there are bigger thing
happening in this country, and things that we need to be attentive to
as a people.>>I felt an obligation to do the play in Flint. I felt strongly that we needed to do a show about this community in that community. I don’t think we could’ve – we couldn’t have done this show without having
done that. And it’s also, I think, good for our students to be in those situations where they can see
that theater can be used as a tool for social justice. I thought it was important to not only do the community performance in Flint, but to create a whole array of community-engaged
activities. For example, we do have a symposium with different
perspectives toward the water crisis. We’re doing an art exhibit, and most of the artists are from Flint, seeing their perception of what the water
crisis is. We are doing a video live stream version at
our Duderstadt Center, in particular for the people who can’t see
it in Flint. It’s their stories, and they should be witness
to it. The ultimate goal for me is twofold. One is to inform people that it’s not over. It’s about educating people, not only on Flint, but the fact that there are so many Flints
out there right now that we don’t even know of. The common denominators are class, and this idea of bodies of color being disposable. The second thing is for people to kind of
just think about change, and what that means to them. Sometimes I think we worry too much about
let’s all – let’s change the world! No – don’t think of it in that big of a
context. What can you do? What little things can you do? And if we add all that up – that’s where
we change the world. So, I don’t want to ask people to move the
world. Just maybe move their neighborhood just a little
bit more. [Music until end]

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