10 Arresting Images of Post-Sandy Staten Island From By The Water's Cast Excursion
November 25th, 2014
by Josh Ferri
In Sharyn Rothstein’s powerful new play By the Water, audiences are transported to Staten Island in the wake of Hurricane Sandy as they watch the Murphy family and their community attempt to rebuild their lives and make sense of the devastating storm. Before the show began performances at New York City Center Stage 2, the playwright and the cast took a field trip to the Sandy-ravaged community in Staten Island, and below Rothstein shares with us 10 photos from the excursion, as well as some context for the arresting images.
Derek Tabacco, who founded and runs Guyon Rescue Center out of a military-grade tent he managed to have donated after the storm, took us on a tour of the Oakwood Beach neighborhood. Derek introduced us to the residents we passed, and they were incredibly generous in sharing their stories.
Oakwood Beach was the first community to get a government buy-out, and although the majority of houses are empty or have been demolished, there are still residents waiting to hear how much money they’ll get, waiting to decide whether or not they can leave, or want to.
There were so many beautiful houses in Oakwood Beach, houses that were clearly very much loved before the storm. Everywhere we looked there was evidence of the people who had lived here and the community they’d been forced to leave behind.
That’s director Hal Brooks in the red hat, talking to Vyto Ruginis. You can tell from our faces that this was an emotionally tough afternoon for everyone. (By the way, I have no idea what’s in Hal’s backpack.)
I’d been out several times on my own to see the damage, but it was still incredibly hard and deeply moving to confront the magnitude of the loss.
Faith is important part of the play, especially for Deirdre O’Connell’s character, who is desperately trying to make sense of this violent storm. As a writer, I’m deeply interested in what happens when issues of faith come head-to-head with science and politics.
We were invited into Derek’s volunteer center. The cast, as well as set designer Wilson Chin, listened as one of Derek’s volunteers, who survived the storm with a two-week old baby in tow, shared his harrowing story. Nearly two years after the storm hit, people are still dealing with it, emotionally, physically and financially.
At the Guyon Rescue Center tent, they’d hung up letters of hope and support from all over the country. It was a reminder of how many people had been effected by Hurricane Sandy.
Vyto Ruginis and Deirdre O’Connell, our leading man and lady, take in the beach that’s just steps away from where blocks of houses have been destroyed and/or demolished. To see so much beauty so close to so much loss was unforgettable.
The last thing we did on the trip was to head over to the beach. I think we were all imagining how hard it would be to live next to such beauty and have to give it up but it was also impossible not to be completely stunned by the power of nature, and that water.
Don’t miss MTC’s production of Sharyn Rothstein’s powerful play 'By The Water,' running at New York City Center, Stage 2 through December 7.