In Rising Water by John Biguenet, Sugar and Camille are a couple preparing for Hurricane Katrina. Camille and Sugar climb to the attic to avoid the water and bicker about going back downstairs to get photographs. Sugar goes against Camille’s wish and saves some photographs from damage. In Act 1 Scene 2, Camille and Sugar are in the attic reminiscing about old times. Camille pulls out her old wedding dress and they talk about their relationship and how much they loved each other. In Act 1 Scene 3, Sugar and Camille worry what will happen if the water rises any more into the attic. They look for a way onto the roof of their house and are able to open up a vent and Camille climbs to their roof. The water is nearly to the attic.
In Act 2 Scene 1, Sugar and Camille start fighting again when prepping for the Hurricane and Camille discloses that Camille and Sugar lost a child, Suzie, about thirty years ago. In Act 2 Scene 2, it’s revealed that they had a son Frankie who left after Sugar and Frankie got in a fight. Sugar shares a story about how when he and his dad were fishing they had to jump overboard and when they stayed in the water the whole night, there was a shark brushing against their legs. On the roof, Camille and Sugar hear house alarms in the distance. Camille and Sugar start singing, like Sugar and his dad did when they were stranded at sea. They stop singing and look at each other while more house alarms go off and look into the audience. The play ends.
In order for the audience to fully understand Rising Water, they must know more about Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and other places around the Gulf Coast (Wang and Ganapati). The environmental disaster was so grand in scale and affected so many living in poverty in New Orleans, making it even more significant. This is important because Hurricane Katrina was more than the government could handle,
“Studies suggest that nonprofit agencies played a crucial role in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina by filling the gap in postdisaster response and recovery efforts as government agencies failed to act immediately and efficiently”
Due to the lack of government aid and assistance and the poverty within New Orleans, many people were deeply affected.
Those who assisted with Hurricane aid (mainly nonprofit agencies) rescued victims and gave them food, shelter and medical attention if needed. (Wang and Ganapati) Although there was a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans the day before the horrific disaster, many people stayed in their homes such as John Biguenet’s Camille and Sugar. Rising Water depicted a clear description of the water rapidly rising throughout New Orleans and the desertion of it and lack of help. Due to this immediate lack of assistance by the government, Camille and Sugar most likely do not make it out alive at the end of the play because no one has come to help and no one is around them. If Camille and Sugar were nonfictional characters, they would be two out the one thousand eight hundred thirty three lives that Hurricane Katrina took with it (Wang and Ganapati) Not only were
one thousand eight hundred thirty three lives taken
after Hurricane Katrina, but there was also one hundred twenty five billion dollars worth of damage (Wang and Ganapati).
Hurricane Katrina also furthered racial tensions in New Orleans. On February 14th, 2019 a trial for Roland J. Bourgeois Jr. occurred (New Orleans Justice Department Documents and Publications 1). Roland J. Bourgeois Jr. is a fifty-five year old man from New Orleans who during Hurricane Katrina shot three young African American men while they were trying to follow the mandatory evacuation of (New Orleans Justice Department Documents and Publications 1). The U.S. Attorney Strasser reflects upon this tragic incident, “Hurricane Katrina was a tragic chapter in the history of our city. Hopefully this plea brings some measure of finality to those directly affected by this crime and to this great city that endured so much in the days following this calamity" (New Orleans Justice Department Documents and Publications 1). When the Justice Department was going through documents filed in connection with the plea they found a disturbing relevance, “shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans,
Bourgeois and other white male residents of the Algiers Point neighborhood agreed that they would use force to keep out African Americans from their neighborhood.
They moved fallen trees to barricade the streets near their homes and started armed patrols of the neighborhood” (New Orleans Justice Department Documents and Publications 1). The racial tension in New Orleans and lack of government assistance was significant as a whole because it leads to question the intentions of the US government.
President Obama on the 10-year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina
Greenturgical Analysis of Rising Water
I will be analyzing Holly Derr’s greenturgical approach to production to better understand Rising Water. Derr introduces the concept of Greenturgy in her article “Addressing Environmental Topics in Theatre by Using Greenturgy” as aiming to “excavate environmental concerns embedded in the dramatic canon and new works, using stories to reconnect people to their physical world” (Derr). ). Derr proposes that using greenturgy, you can ask the following four questions: “What is the broader environment of our works, whether manifested onstage or not? What are the parallels between the natural world of the play and where the play is being produced? What are the environmental impacts of the choices made by characters, intentional, anticipated or otherwise? Lastly, What are the connections, literal and metaphorical, between the natural world of our plays and the various natural worlds of our audience?” (Derr)
The issues that Rising Water and John Biguenet are exploring in terms of the environment and sustainability are environmental disasters and climate change. Although Hurricane Katrina greatly affected New Orleans, I think the broader environment of Rising Water is not just targeted to those affected by Hurricane Katrina. Rising Water is targeting everyone in the audience no matter what race, religion, or where someone is from. I think that Rising Water is this way because it was made to raise awareness among the issue of not only Hurricane Katrina but also natural disasters in general. Biguenet writes about an environmental disaster, Hurricane Katrina, that we now know was exacerbated by climate change. As Derr explains, Rising Water fits within our understanding of current environmental issues.
Parallels Between the Natural World of the Play and Where it is Being Produced
There are many parallels between the natural world of the play and where the play is being produced in Rising Water. Not only does Rising Water take place in New Orleans, but it is also being produced in New Orleans. In 2015, Rising Water was first performed at the Bayou Playhouse in Louisiana (Nola.com). This is significant because Rising Water is specifically about the damage from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Bayou Theatre creates a direct parallel between the natural world of the play, Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, and where the play is being produced by using sustainable materials. The building of the Bayou Playhouse was built by using supplies from shuttered theatres in New Orleans (Nola.com). The seats in the theatre are from the Saenger Theatre and all of the equipment and gear necessary for lighting and sound are from the True Brew Playhouse in Louisiana. The Bayou playhouse’s artistic director, Perry Martin, reflects on the connection between the natural world of the play and where the play is being produced,
“We thought it was appropriate to open a play about Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29 in a theater that rose from the ashes of the storm like a great Phoenix” (Nola.com).
In Rising Water there are only two characters, Sugar and Camille. Throughout the play, they do not mention any particular environmental impacts of the choices made by characters, although Sugar and Camille experience Una Chauduri’s concept of geopathology. Geopathology is defined as:
“the many problems related to place-as a nation, homeland, neighborhood, environment, border, that largely defined the past century of dislocation. The term also seeks to name and to recognize, a related phenomenon: the characterization of place itself as a problem, as a site of often-painful psychological impasse and as an ideological blind spot, with devastating consequences.” (Chauduri 46)
Geopathology discusses problems related to a place and problems affecting a particular geographical location leading to placelessness, which is essentially what the natural disaster Hurricane Katrina is causing among the people of New Orleans.
We see this with Sugar and Camille, as they are confined to the roof of their house due to the water flooding into their home. If Camille and Sugar don’t get rescued in time, they will have to tread water with nowhere to go, causing placelessness. If they get rescued, their home will be no longer also leading to placelessness.
Connections Between Rising Water and the Various Natural Worlds of the Audience
There are strong connections, literal and metaphorical, between the natural world of Rising Water and the various natural worlds of our audience. Rising Water targets everyone in the audience no matter what race, religion, or where someone is from. Although Rising Water is set in New Orleans, it is easy to relate to John Biguenet’s characters even if you do not live in New Orleans and experienced Hurricane Katrina first hand. Camille and Sugar bicker a lot over little things. The bickering between these two is easily relatable to the audience’s relationship with their significant other or even parent/child. Rising Water does a good job of portraying the natural world of New Orleans flooding during Hurricane Katrina through portraying how many people evacuated. Camille and Sugar cannot to find help in this natural disaster and no other people are around them to help. The relatable characters Rising Water make it easier for the audience to empathize with victims of Hurricane Katrina and inspire the audience to give a helping hand.
In Rising Water John Biguenet is talking about an actual environmental disaster that killed many people, when we focus on specific environmental problems on our campus we can use Hurricane Katrina as a metaphor to represent the issue of poverty in Canton, NY comparing it to the issue of poverty in New Orleans. Rising Water can also be relevant to a St. Lawrence audience because it can raise awareness of the awful effects of natural disasters such as hurricanes to students. For Rising Water, it would be helpful for the audience members to know something about Hurricane Katrina, as that is what the play is about. It would also be helpful for the audience to know some information about New Orleans, so they can see that it is significant that this affected New Orleans.
FEMA Former Employee's Perspective
US Government and Hurricane Katrina
Those who assisted with Hurricane aid (mainly nonprofit agencies) rescued victims and gave them food, shelter and medical attention if needed. (Wang and Ganapati) Although there was a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans the day before the horrific disaster, many people stayed in their homes such as John Biguenet’s Camille and Sugar. Rising Water depicted a clear description of the water rapidly rising throughout New Orleans and the desertion of it and lack of help. Due to this immediate lack of assistance by the government, Camille and Sugar most likely do not make it out alive at the end of the play because no one has come to help and no one is around them. If Camille and Sugar were nonfictional characters, they would be two out the one thousand eight hundred thirty three lives that Hurricane Katrina took with it (Wang and Ganapati) Not only were one thousand eight hundred thirty three lives taken after Hurricane Katrina, but there was also one hundred twenty five billion dollars worth of damage (Wang and Ganapati).
This is an ongoing trend that does not just apply to Hurricane Katrina. The numbers of low-income housing developments across the United States that exist in flood plains could possibly become uninhabitable due to climate change causes more severe weather and increased flooding. A report done by the Furman Center at New York University in 2017 found that “nationwide, about 450,000 government-subsidized households — about 8 to 9 percent — are in flood plains” (Mervosh). This is significant because “many of those, including traditional public housing, low-income housing for older people and Section 8 properties like the one in Houston, are financed by HUD” (Mervosh). Climate change is continuing to put those living in low-income households in danger, more so than the middle and upper class.
Biguenet, John. The Rising Water Triology. Louisiana State UP, 2015.
Chaudhuri, Una. "The Silence of the Polar Bears." Readings in Performance and Ecology, edited by Wendy Arons and Theresa J. May, pp. 45-57.
Derr, Holly. "Addressing Environmental Topics in Theatre by Using Greenturgy." HowlRound Theatre Commons, 2 Jan. 2018.
Drye, Willie. "Hurricane Katrina: The Essential Timeline." National Geographic, 14 Sept. 2005, news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/09/weather-hurricane-katrina-timeline/. Accessed 29 Apr. 2019.
Justice Department Documents and Publications. "New Orleans Man Sentenced for Hate Crime in Shooting of Three AfricanAmerican Men Attempting to Evacuate after Hurricane Katrina." Federal Information and News Dispatch, Inc, pp. 1-3. LexisNexis Academic, advance.lexis.com/document/?pdmfid=1516831&crid=f727548b-5a06-49db-bacd-76e995791ed3&pddocfullpath=%2Fshared%2Fdocument%2Fnews%2Furn%3AcontentItem%3A5VF0-CHV1-JCCP-00M3-00000-00&pddocid=urn%3AcontentItem%3A5VF0-CHV1-JCCP-00M3-00000-00&pdcontentcomponentid=247474&pdteaserkey=sr7&pditab=allpods&ecomp=3fyk&earg=sr7&prid=5e2a8dc8-82de-4ee5-bd15-150d68f1ea15. Accessed 7 Mar. 2019.
Mervosh, Sarah. "Unsafe to Stay, Unable to Go: Half a Million Face Flooding Risk in Government Homes." The New York Times, 11 Apr. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/04/11/us/houston-flooding.html. Accessed 28 Apr. 2019.
Nichols, Gary. File:US Navy 050902-N-5328N-582 Four days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast, many parts of New Orleans remain flooded.jpg. 2 Sept. 2005, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Navy_050902-N-5328N-582_Four_days_after_Hurricane_Katrina_made_landfall_on_the_Gulf_Coast,_many_parts_of_New_Orleans_remain_flooded.jpg. Accessed 2 Apr. 2019.
Nola.com. "John Biguenet's Katrina Drama, 'Rising Water,' Opens Bayou Playhouse's Eighth Season." Nola.com, 20 Sept. 2015, www.nola.com/arts/2015/09/rising_water_john_biguenet.html. Accessed 8 Mar. 2019.
Personal Reflections from FEMA Employees about Hurricanes Katrina and Rita 10 Years Later. Performance by Eddie Williams, FEMA, 2015.
Photograph of Beyoncé on a New Orleans Police car in her music video for Formation. SLATE, 6 Feb. 2016, slate.com/culture/2016/02/watch-formation-beyonce-s-new-blacklivesmatter-inspired-music-video.html. Accessed 28 Apr. 2019.
The President on the 10-year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Produced by The Obama White House, Youtube, 2015.
Reed, Jason. Outside the Superdome in New Orleans on September 2 2005. 25 Aug. 2015, theconversation.com/still-waiting-for-help-the-lessons-of-hurricane-katrina-on-poverty-46666. Accessed 2 Apr. 2019.
Schmaltz, Jeff. Hurricane Katrina August 28 2005 NASA. 28 Aug. 2005, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Katrina#/media/File:Hurricane_Katrina_August_28_2005_NASA.jpg. Accessed 2 Apr. 2019.
This photograph is the cover for John Biguenet's Rising Water Triology. Amazon, www.amazon.com/Rising-Water-Trilogy-Plays/dp/0807161403. Accessed 28 Apr. 2019.
Wang, Lili, and Nazife Emel Ganapati. "Disasters and Social Capital: Exploring the Impact of Hurricane Katrina on Gulf Coast Counties." Social Science Quarterly, vol. 99, no. 1, Mar. 2018, pp. 296-312. EBSCOhost, web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=4&sid=ce81058d-0953-449e-80c7-178fe04002d8%40sessionmgr4008. Accessed 8 Mar. 2019.