Katrina Survivor Stories Come Alive
By Sarah Duffy, Communication Arts Practicum Student
A single dimmed light shown on the bare stage. The actor walked out, holding only a worn-out wooden chair, and placed it center stage. The anticipation grew as she stared blankly into the crowd. A picture of tangled rope was displayed in the background, illuminating her black outfit. The stage came to life when a boisterous southern accent burst from the once-silent performer.
In March, Siobhan O’Loughlin brought he packed Black Box Theatre to the city of New Orleans with her portrayal of life after Hurricane Katrina in the one-act play The Rope in Your Hands. Through the viewpoints of 13 actual residents, she exposed the devastation, despair, heartache, confusion, fear and hope that came from the horrific natural disaster.
The performance was sponsored by PACE to bring civic engagement to life for the Hargreaves Faculty Seminar Presidential Citizen Scholars and the SU community.
“Our faculty seminar is looking for creative ways to get our students engaged, and Siobhan’s impressive performance grew out of a class project,” said Dr. Fran Kane. “It’s a perfect example of what students can do.”
O’Loughlin took on the role of characters ranging from an eccentric street performer named Jesse the Jester, who makes people laugh for spare change, to Steve Hoeschele, a hippie working as an ACORN crew chief, and even a 7-year old girl whose main grievance was the long car ride her family took to Texas to escape disaster.
To portray dfferent people ranging in age from 7 to 65, O’Loughlin continually changed accents and stature and utilized her one stage prop—the wooden chair.
“The objective is to bring voices to the table who we haven’t heard.” O’Loughlin said.
The show is used as an outlet for those stories. O’Loughlin commented that the random, real-life individuals she interviewed wanted to speak about their lives. She often asked just one question.
“Can you tell me your story?”
The idea for the performance came to O’Loughlin from a teacher. She was traveling to New Orleans to help gut houses, and the professor dared her to interview the local residents. Ironically, O’Loughlin’s first response was that she was too shy to do that. Despite this, the Towson University acting and theatre arts major ventured around the city with a recorder in hand and spoke to random people on the streets.
The performance not only gave the audience a sense of familiarity with the characters, but a student who did volunteer work in New Orleans believes she may have actually met one of the characters—ACORN Crew Chief Hoeschele. SU Senior Leanne Lechoco recognized the name, his occupation and eccentric personality.
“The performance reiterated why I wanted to be a Presidential Citizen Scholar,” Lechoco said. “Siobhan reminded me that this profram is not solely about civic engagement, but the importance of creating my own definition of it. [The play] and the program have proved to me that having a message is insignificant unless you share it.”
The performance, her second at SU, was well received by students, faculty and community members. Hargreaves Faculty Seminar participant Marie Beckey, (Management and Marketing) summed it up in one word: “Magnificent.”
To view the article online, look here at page 5: http://www.salisbury.edu/pace/publications/Newsletters/PACE%20Newsletter%207_10.pdf