The Flint water crisis has been the subject of several documentaries and even a network drama, but now the issue is taking center stage in a new play at the University of Michigan.
Playwright Jose? Casas spent nearly three years interviewing more than 80 people in order to create his new play, “Flint,” which tells the story of the water crisis through the voices of residents, activists, scientists and politicians.
It’ll premiere at the Ann Arbor campus’ Arthur Miller Theatre on Thursday and will run for eight nights.
“Flint” involves characters based on real residents in the city where lead-tainted water was discovered in 2014 after officials tapped the Flint River without properly treating the drinking water. The documentary-style play unfolds through monologues and group scenes that cover issues beyond water, such as race, poverty and violence.
“As I did more and more research and interviews, I started to see these different stories, whether you’re talking about the racial history in Flint, food inequity, the social and justice system, all of those things also play a factor in this play,” said Casas, who’s an assistant professor of theater and drama at the university.
Casas, of Los Angeles, aims to “tell stories of communities that have been traditionally underserved or marginalized.” He’s written plays on topics ranging from bullying to deadly crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Casas held public readings of the play in Ann Arbor and Flint, inviting community leaders, activists, elected officials and others to help workshop the piece.
“I really wanted their community to have a say in the outcome,” he said. “I wanted their opinion, and I wanted to make sure that we were representing their vision, their struggles.”
He hopes the play will bring more attention to Flint’s ongoing crisis and encourage audiences to consider how to create change in their communities.
Student actors will hold an additional performance at the Flint Development Center on April 16. A live-streamed performance is also scheduled for April 19.