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JTP’s “Light on the Horizon” Examines the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill’s Effects on the Gulf Coast

The Justice Theater Project will present "Light on the Horizon," a work-in-progress by Deb Royals, on June 8-24 in Clare Hall at the Catholic Community of Saint Francis of Assisi in Raleigh

The Justice Theater Project will present "Light on the Horizon," a work-in-progress by Deb Royals, on June 8-24 in Clare Hall at the Catholic Community of Saint Francis of Assisi in Raleigh

The Justice Theater Project of Raleigh, NC will conclude its 2011-12 season — dedicated to “Our Planet. Our People. Our Plight: Stewardship of the Environment” — with Light on the Horizon, a work-in-progress about the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster written and directed by JTP artistic director Deb Royals, on June 8-10, 15-17, and 22-24 in Clare Hall at the Catholic Community of Saint Francis of Assisi in Raleigh. The show will also feature original music by Diogenes Ruiz and Jim Wahl.

In keeping with The Justice Theater Project’s mission of activism and advocacy, the consciousness-raising theater company will present a series of preshow discussions on Sundays, led by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions director of state policy Bill Holman (June 10th), Saint Francis of Assisi Justice and Peace representative Sheila Read (June 17th), and National Geographic journalist Joel K. Bourne, Jr. (June 24th).

According to The Justice Theater Project:

“[Light on the Horizon is based] on interviews and observations in Louisiana Gulf communities before and after the ‘Well from Hell’ exploded on April 20, 2010. At first and from a distance, it looked to be a beautiful light on the horizon. The Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill quickly became the largest man-made disaster in history when the oil was uncapped for three months, pouring into the Gulf of Mexico and forever changing the landscape and the lives of the inhabitants of what was once a pristine coastal habitat.

“The story begins in the 1960s, when the residents of the Gulf of Mexico communities embraced the oil industry and the first rigs on the horizon, some resting in only 20 feet of water and dotting the shore. From a distance, the rigs looked productive and important.

“The first annual Shrimp and Petroleum Festival took place in 1967, and continues to this day. Shrimpers in season, rough necks on the oil rig out of season, the community residents prospered with hopes of steady incomes, mortgages, and the American Dream. This is a story about ‘pink gold’ and ‘black gold,’ about the familiar and the foreign, and the aftermath of an avoidable disaster.

“Playwright Deb Royals, artistic director for The Justice Theater Project, traveled to Louisiana Gulf communities on five occasions, interviewing officials, residents, and self-professed area historians. These passionate discussions shaped the dialogue [she] has created that captures the timber and cadence of people once secure in their lifestyle and now facing an uncertain future. These interviews expose the depths of the grief, desperation, and anger of those whose livelihoods depend on a healthy Gulf of Mexico, and whose communities have been devastated by loss of livelihood from reductions of tourism, loss of fishing revenue, and elimination of many oil industry jobs.

“In describing her research in the Gulf and her vision of the show, Royals comments, ‘There are so many layers to this story. It was painfully hard to discern where to focus the piece and then it dawned on me — listen to what one resident, Reggie, said to you and let him guide you toward the telling. I am forever grateful for his friendship and for his brilliance. Research … interviews … in the stunning landscape of southern Louisiana where the water steals the land, a way of life, where mourning and joy sit side by side and where people are strong and tenacious … well … it is hard work. This was a sacred journey, one that rendered incredible insight and light.'”

The "Light on the Horizon" cast includes (from left) Carlos Massey, John Honeycutt, and Jason Hassell, shown here on a shrimp boat 

The "Light on the Horizon" cast includes (from left) Carlos Massey, John Honeycutt, and Jason Hassell, shown here on a shrimp boat

The Light on the Horizon cast includes John Honeycutt, Carlos Massey, Jason Hassell, Coty Cockrell, Ann Forsthoefel, Lilly Anderson, and Allison Baumgartner.

In addition to playwright and director Deb Royals and composers Diogenes Ruiz and Jim Wahl, The Justice Theater Project creative team for Light on the Horizon includes choreographer Christi Seneri, scenographer Tom Wolf, costume designer Nora Murphy, and stage managers Emma Elsea and Matthew Kauffmann.

“Costumes are set in 1967 for the first act, present day for the second act,” observes set designer Tom Wolf. “[Director and playwright]Deb [Royals] observed in her travels that the Louisiana gulf residents have not changed much in their style of clothing over the years, but the accessories — cell phones, iPods, etc.–have.”

He adds, “The Justice Theater Project production crew strives to realize our theme of environmental awareness. Did you know … ?

·         “Our set materials are nearly all recycled from previous productions. The lumber for the first level of the oil rig was the structure under The Secret Garden set. The planks on the dock and the second level of the oil rig were previously the supports of the ‘mine shaft’ in Molly Daughter.

·         “We use standard 4′ x 8′ size platforms for our surfaces. These platforms have been seen previously not only in JTP productions, but also at Cary Academy, Free Association Theatre Ensemble, and Koka Booth Amphitheatre.

·         “Even the fasteners are recycled. We stay with only two standard sizes of screws to make them easy to sort for reuse on future productions.”

“Take a look up at the stage lighting,” Wolf says. “All of the black fixtures are high-efficiency LED lights (the few silver fixtures are standard halogen lamps). The entire show is powered by only two 20-amp circuits.

“For safety reasons,” he explains, “we use electronic ‘candles,’ instead of open flames. These candles even turn themselves off in case we forget.”

“Ever wondered how we pick the paint colors?” Wolf asks. “We start with an idea, but we adjust depending on what we find at the ‘mistakes’ paint area at the hardware store. Somewhere in Raleigh, there is a room almost-but-not-quite the same color as our set.”

Costume designer Nora Murphy adds, “Act I is set in 1967,”. “Although much of the U.S. had fad fashion with Jackie Kennedy and Twiggy, The Beatles, etc., Louisiana didn’t see much of that. The hard-working people in the area weren’t concerned with that, but rather with the natural resources. They were proud — as I said — faithful, honest, trustworthy, community-oriented people. That has not changed up to today.”

Murphy says, “[Louisiana f]ashion is almost the same [in 1967 and today], except for logo representation now on shirts and hats. Loving their natural resources are primary. They still dressed for the festival but in casual attire due to the heat and Sunday best is simple, clean cut, but not designer or trend dressing. Khakis, polos, tees, jeans, hats, flip flops, shorts, sneakers — these are all you need to fit into Louisiana life, plus a huge love of the sea and Gods gifts…. Props [include] hard hats, safety vests, shrimpers boots, festival sashes, crowns, and flashlights.”

Special events connected with Light on the Horizon include:

An Opening-Night Reception (June 8th): The Justice Theater Project invites first-nighters to linger after the show for a complimentary reception sponsored by the Leesville Tap Room (http://leesvilletaproom.com/).

$10 Sunday Matinee/Preshow Discussion (June 10th): All tickets are $10 for the 2 p.m. Sunday performance, which will be preceded — at 1:20 p.m. — by a preshow discussion, led by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions director of state policy Bill Holman.

Sunday Preshow Discussion (June 17th): There will be a 1:20 p.m. preshow discussion, led by Saint Francis of Assisi Justice and Peace representative Sheila Read.

Sunday Preshow Discussion/Audio-Described Performance (June 24th): There will be a 1:20 p.m. preshow discussion, led by National Geographic journalist Joel K. Bourne, Jr. SEED Raleigh (http://www.seedraleigh.org/) will provide FREE babysitting services for the first 10 children registered, and Arts Access, Inc. (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) of Raleigh will audio describe the performance.

SECOND OPINION: June 6th Durham, NC Independent Weekly preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/local-theater-artist-deb-royals-new-play-about-the-deepwater-horizon-oil-spill/Content?oid=3081193.

The Justice Theater Project presents LIGHT ON THE HORIZON, a work-in-progress by Deb Royals, at 8 p.m. June 8 and 9, 2 p.m. June 10, 8 p.m. June 15 and 16, 2 p.m. June 17, 8 p.m. June 22 and 23, and 2 p.m. June 24 in Clare Hall at the Catholic Community of Saint Francis of Assisi, 11401 Leesville Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27613.

TICKETS: $20 ($15 students and seniors), except all seats $10 on Sunday, June 10th, and $12 per ticket for groups of 10 or more.

BOX OFFICE: 919-264-7089, marketing@thejusticetheaterproject.org, or http://www.etix.com/.

SHOW and RELATED EVENTS: http://www.thejusticetheaterproject.org/productions/production_detail/153/.

PRESENTER: http://www.justicetheaterproject.org/.

VENUE: http://www.stfrancisraleigh.org/. DIRECTIONS/MAPS: http://www.stfrancisraleigh.org/mapsandphotos.

NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio describe the 2 p.m. June 24th performance, which will be FREE for visually impaired patrons and their drivers.

OTHER LINKS:

Deb Royals-Mizerk: https://www.facebook.com/deb.royals (Facebook).

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepwater_Horizon_oil_spill (Wikipedia).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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