By Darcy Courteau
January 23, 2014
After Katrina, novelist and Loyola University professor John Biguenet wrote a play about a married couple’s hours, likely their final ones, spent trapped in the attic and on the roof of their flooded New Orleans house. Angered with the federal government’s slow response to the disaster, he turned to Samuel Beckett to write Rising Water, finding that Happy Days and Waiting for Godot could be interpreted not as absurdist drama but as prophetic realism.
Rising Water premiered in 2007 before enthusiastic audiences at New Orleans’s Southern Rep Theatre, and there have been seven productions around the country since. Meanwhile, as the flood’s aftermath unfolded, Biguenet wrote a second play, Shotgun, set four months later, that depicts two families, one black and one white, forced to live side by side in a double shotgun house, circumstances having suspended the racial animosities that plague New Orleans. With three productions of Shotgun already staged, Biguenet is developing this theme in a third play tentatively titled “Mold,” which will introduce a black homeowner and a Mexican laborer attempting to renovate a flooded house. Since 2005 Hispanics have arrived in numbers great enough to rebuild not only the city’s houses but also its cultural landscape.
“There is a conversation taking place among the three plays,” Biguenet says. Creating a trilogy in installments has presented unexpected twists for the playwright. “one thing I couldn’t have anticpated is that they all would become love stories.” He reflects on actual couples that came through the flood stronger as well as those that broke up. “My guess is that many of the divorced would have stayed together until they died if the levees hadn’t collapsed.”
Darcy Courteau is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C. Her most recent work has appeared in The Atlantic, Oxford American, New Orleans Review, and The Wilson Quarterly.