“Water by the Spoonful” Quenches Students Thirst for New Themes

With opening night soon upon them, the cast and crew of “Water by the Spoonful” is hard at work to put on a stirring show. 

“Water by the Spoonful” is a 2012 Pulitzer Prize winning play written by Quiara Alegría Hudes that tells the compelling tale of a veteran, Elliot Ortiz (based off of Hudes’ cousin), returning home to civilian life after service in the Iraq war. Performances are March 1-4 and March 8-11 at Parker Theatre.

“The play deals a lot with characters who are on the margins of society such as a war veteran and addicts,” said guest director Jerry Ruiz. “The play tells the story of these marginalized characters. These people are fully human and their experiences should be valued. It gives the people who are on the fringes of society a voice.”

 Set in 2009 Philadelphia, the play revolves around Elliot’s life at home where he struggles with addiction and identity. After joining online chat room support groups for recovering addicts, his new connections help him fight through his PTSD and fears and build familial bonds over the internet and across the globe.

“I really wanted to explore the themes of addiction and abandonment, but also redemption and forgiveness. This play is really about family,” Ruiz said. “One interesting thing is not only does the play revolve around Elliot and his family, but also Odessa, Elliot’s mother and her online family. It’s a story about how people are there for each other and are each other’s salvation. It’s a great piece for student actors and designers.”

The show will be featuring Andres Felipe Rodriguez Vivas (Elliot Ortiz), Deanna Casañas (Yazmin Ortiz), Lester Mayers (Chutes and Ladders), Livia Simmons (Orangutan), Kyle O’Shea (Fountainhead)  Clarissa Mota (Odessa Ortiz/Haikumom) and Kai Junn Lathrop (Professor, Ghost, Policeman).

Performing this play pushes the boundaries of SUNY New Paltz theatre as it explores themes people tend to shy away from. The cast and crew felt excited and prepared to tackle these topics. 

“This play is easy to resonate with. Everyone has felt abandoned and isolated before in their life and this gives a voice to those who aren’t heard,” said third-year theatre arts major Kai Junn Lathrop. “The theme really centers around how people take care of each other. These themes haven’t really been discussed before in the shows from our department. It’s important to talk about PTSD, drug abuse and other topics people tend to shy away from. We shouldn’t be reluctant to telling these stories, even if it is an emotional roller coaster.”

Along with this, the play is the first mainstage production put on at SUNY New Paltz to be written by a woman of color.  

“This show is great for New Paltz to perform because it was written by a woman of color,” Vivas said. “The theatre department is heading in the right direction by choosing relevant shows written by a person of color and this show is the first to start us on the right foot and it’s a huge leap forward.” 

Mota echoed Vivas’ sentiments, stressing the importance of minority representation on the stage. 

“It means a lot to me to play a Puerto Rican woman for the first time on stage, to have my identity on stage and portrayed and people that look like me; it feels so exciting,” said third-year theatre arts major Mota.

“Behind the scenes, the crew (comprised of set, sound, lighting, and more) is working equally as hard to prepare for opening night. Third-year theatre major Jonathan Nickens is the lighting designer for the show, an essential role in the success of the performances. 

“Scenically, the lighting paints a different world. A lot of the show happens over the internet in a chat room, so I have to create two different worlds. I have the reality, and the internet so the lighting is really what makes it noticeable,” Nickens said. 

Another stunning element of the play is the set, which was designed by Alayna Klein. 

“The show is about people struggling with addiction and relating to one another,” Klein said. “I wanted the set to visually represent the urban area of the characters and further the story telling,”  

Due to the moving story, those involved expect the play to resonate with audiences, whether you can personally relate or not. 

“I think the most important thing that the audience should take away is a sense of belonging, a sense of family, and acceptance of where you are in your life right now and being ready and willing to take the journey to get to where you need to be,” said Casañas, fourth year theatre arts major.

With the cast and crew hard at work, “Water by the Spoonful” is sure to be an unforgettable performance for all involved. Tickets are on sale now, online and at the Parker Theatre box office.