CSUN students and a faculty member will conduct interviews of victims of natural disasters to present a play about their experiences in Fall 2006.
The interviews are part of a grant project on “Natural Disasters” that will be made up of displaced and evacuated Hurricane Katrina, Rita, flooding, mudslide, and earthquake victims. The play is expected to be shown in October.
Richard Mitchell, an English professor who has also written more than 20 plays, is writing a play to show the social problems that occurred during Hurricane Katrina.
He said he also wants to develop a play that is related to natural disasters, and use events from both hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
“Disaster is not that natural like many people think,” Mitchell said. “Most of the time the disaster is related to other things. Hurricanes are natural, so are volcanoes. However, the world is contaminated by global warming. So many people are dying from cancer, which is linked to the contamination of the environment. People think the environment is ‘natural,’ but the reality is that it is not.”
According to Mitchell, there is always a very close connection to social conventions in disasters. For instance, in developed countries these disasters do not affect the numbers of citizens that they affect in undeveloped countries.
“For example, in New Orleans, the upper class live on higher ground and the poor live in the low land, close to the levees that hold back the sea. So the rich did not suffer as much as the poor did,” Mitchell said.
A large part of the project is going to be done by students because they are going to interview the victims.
“Americans often say, ‘Look how terrible the tsunami was in Indonesia” and think that something bad is never going to happen to them.
“Some people are saying the government is not responsible because they are not poor the way they are. Let’s make them more white, create more wealth. That is kind of cynical. However, there is some kind of truth in that,” Mitchell said. “We have a lot of poor neighborhoods in America, but sometimes we need a disaster like that for people to see the reality. The play is going to be very global because we want to connect it with all the disasters.”
Mitchell said he wants the audience to get involved and talk about these problems.
“The media showed the disaster in New Orleans, however, I was wondering if this had not happened would people know about the problems the people of New Orleans were facing?” he said.
He said be believes the play is going to be very funny, but will also make fun of the situations that arose from Hurricane Katrina.
He plans to go to New Orleans by himself, but said he also needs to do some interviews in California.
“The play is also going to be shown in other parts of L.A. besides Northridge,” Mitchell said. “One place for sure will be the African American Museum.”
The Humanity Interdisciplinary Studies is sponsoring the program.
Cynthia Glucksman, a graduate student, is assisting Mitchell with the program.
“We are not going to charge anything to see the play. However, we want donations to go to the Katrina victims,” Glucksman said. “As far as I know, CSUN is the first one doing an event like this play. We have seen a lot of documentaries on the disaster. However, not what really is going on.”
“Nothing related to arts has been done in these disasters. Therefore, CSUN is doing this,” Glucksman said.