Houston and Galveston-area residents are rebuilding their lives and homes following the trail of destruction left by Ike. Three years ago, they also were key in helping New Orleanians recover from Hurricane Katrina.
That particular storm remains embedded in America's conscience following the horrific images of its aftermath and controversy surrounding federal response to its survivors.
Now, the true stories from those who endured Katrina are being told in a new production "Katrina: The Bridge." Presented by the University of Houston School of Theatre & Dance in collaboration with the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, the play will make its world premiere Oct. 3 at UH's Lyndall Finley Wortham Theatre.
Performances are at 8 p.m., Oct. 3, 4, 10, 11 and at 2 p.m., Oct. 12. For ticket information, contact the Wortham Theatre box office at 713-743-2929.
Written by Nathaniel Freeman and directed by Steven Wallace, "Katrina: The Bridge" focuses on eight Katrina survivors in the days following the storm. These New Orleans residents find themselves stranded on a highway overpass, and tension mounts as the characters struggle without food, water or shelter.
The dialogue and situations presented in this production are inspired by "Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston," a project overseen by UH English professor Carl Lindahl that documented interviews with the hurricane's survivors.
"Houston and its mayor, Bill White, were at the forefront of providing shelter and relief for survivors," Wallace said. "This city played an integral role in helping so many people who suffered during Katrina. It's a relevant play no matter where it's staged, but it will really hit home right here in Houston. The play is particularly focused on how humans relate to each other during a crisis. "
Among the characters in the play are Beverly, a woman who has tried to do the right thing for all of her life and now finds herself in this hopeless predicament; Travis, a very vocal brass band musician; and Ernest, a police officer.
Wallace and playwright Freeman were both in Florida during the storm but were affected by the televised images of the weather-beaten New Orleans and its residents. "This play," Freeman said, "is not just a look back on the storm's immediate after-effects but also a reminder that Katrina's impact is still being felt."
Just as Wallace and Freeman were moved by the Katrina experience to produce this dramatic work, lead actress Stephanie Berry, a New York theatre and film veteran who plays Beverly, also was moved by the plight of the survivors. So much so, she and a cousin boarded a plane to Houston to aid evacuees at the Astrodome.
Ultimately, Wallace and Freeman want to bring "Katrina: The Bridge" to the place where it will resonate best, New Orleans. Houston, however, is an appropriate setting for its premiere, Wallace said.
"Houston was at the forefront of Katrina relief efforts," he said. "It's a strong city and one that sets an example for others in America. Even now as it recovers from Ike, Houston is showing its resiliency. It's the perfect place to premiere this play about survival."
The UH School of Theatre & Dance offers bachelor's and master's degrees in theatre and teacher certifications in dance. Its graduate program consists of a master of arts in theatre and masters of fine arts in theatre with specializations in acting, directing and design. Each season the School of Theatre & Dance produces five plays performed in the Wortham Theatre and the Jose Quintero Theatre, two dance concerts, student productions, the New Play Festival, the Houston Shakespeare Festival and the Children's Theatre Festival. The school has benefitted from notable star faculty such as Edward Albee, Lanford Wilson, Sir Peter Hall and Jose Quintero. Among current faculty are Houston Shakespeare Festival founder Sidney Berger, Tony Award-winning playwright Medoff and Tony Award-winning producer Stuart Ostrow.
For details on UH's School of Theatre & Dance, visit http://www.hfac.uh.edu/theatre/.
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.