For those of us tucked up in the Northeast part of the country, Hurricane Katrina is a distant memory, a tragedy of nearly a decade ago. But for those still feeling the effects down South its presence is constant. Siobhan O’Louglin gives a voice to the personal stories in her solo show, The Rope in Your Hands (playing at The Red Room). Through thirteen different first-hand survivor accounts, O’Loughlin deftly moves through the before and after of one of the most devastating disasters in recent memory.
From street performers to university personnel, preachers to clean-up volunteers, the French Quarter to the Ninth Ward, O’Loughlin’s interviews span race, class, and age to bring a fully realized account of the storm and its aftermath. Morphing gracefully into each character, with specific physicality and well-practiced speech patterns, O’Loughlin is a joy to watch.
One can only imagine the mammoth undertaking that came with interviewing and mining the dramatic pith from each of her subjects. The story she tells is cohesive and focused, with a chronology and structure the audience can easily follow. She works her way up to the storm itself, and rather than dwelling too much on the actual rainfall or breaking of the levees (images oft-played on the news), she tells of the evacuations, the forethought, the packing up and shipping out for those who survived.
And then there is the aftermath: the cleanup, the re-building, the government aid (or lack thereof). Here is where O’Loughlin’s point of view begins to surface. The overarching opinion of her subjects is that the government did not do enough to help the survivors, that there should not have been a wait for food, water, and medicine. As one of her characters puts it, “When you see a man drowning in the middle of a lake, and you have a rope in your hands, you don’t debate about whether or not to throw it to him. You throw the rope, pull him out, and then debate about it.” Using the words of activists, homeowners, and cleanup volunteers, O’Loughlin shines a light on the still-in-progress re-building of one of America’s most vibrant cities.
One of the most striking elements of the testimonies is how much love and pride these people have for their city. They do not leave and start life somewhere else. Instead they come back, slog through the gutting of their homes, and try to recreate the color and wonder of the city they know exists somewhere. O’Loughlin, too, feels the same ownership over her characters, and each is presented with respect, grace, humor, and humility. It is a terrific feat, bringing that many voices to life, but she achieves it, and recognizes the importance of their words. After all, sometimes the easiest way to heal is by telling your story, and knowing that someone is listening.
~~~The Rope in Your Hands Written and performed by Siobhan O’Loughlin Directed by Danielle Skraastad Mar 03, 11:00PM Mar 04, 6:30PM $10.00 / $12.00 The Red Room Click Here for FRIGID FESTIVAL tickets Hangover: Mar 09, 2012 $20.00 The Kraine Theater Click Here for FRIGID HANGOVER tickets