Wednesday, July 23, 2014





A flood of memories comes back


March 09. 2013 11:38PM

By - mbiebel@civitasmedia.com - (570) 991-6109






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Sure, they’ve been downtown. But since they “live in the gym,” two Bloomsburg University wrestlers tell each other, they’ve never really been to the neighborhoods.


Until September 2011, that is, when they volunteer to clean flood-soaked basements and force residents to see them as more than a couple of college guys who probably spend a lot of time at noisy parties.


Afterward, a grateful mom takes her 8-year-old son to see his heroes on the mat.


“I didn’t know that kid, but now we see him at all the matches,” one wrestler says. “It’s awesome.”


That’s just one of many anecdotes — heart-warming, poignant slices of life, some humorous, some sobering — you will hear if you attend the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble’s production of “Flood Stories, Too.”


“Through the experience of shared vulnerability, we become stronger,” director Jerry Stropnicky said, explaining why he invited people to talk about the autumn floods of 2011 that hit Bloomsburg and the rest of the Susquehanna Valley hard.


One storyteller felt torn about going to work, leaving family members to move furniture by themselves. Another was amazed by abundant donations of flood-relief lasagna. Many felt numb as they came to grips with losing a home they loved.


Some 70 participants “ranging in age from 6 to ‘none of your business’ ” form the show’s three alternating casts. Among them are people who lost their homes to the Lee Flood but, Stropnicky said, “There are only a couple of occasions when I have people telling their own stories.


“There’s a real value in people being able to tell their own story, but there’s a different therapeutic value in the validation that happens when you hear someone else tell your story.


“Theater is built for that, the ability for people to see their story framed.”


So, you can expect to see most participants in this full-stage production playing a role as they tell someone else’s story.


You also can expect a variety of music, with the Bloomsburg Bicentennial Choir singing numbers by present-day composers Van Wagner and Paul Loomis as well as the late Robert Lowry, who wrote “Shall We Gather at the River?” in the 1800s.


“He wrote that at the Susquehanna in Lewisburg. I’m counting it as one of our river songs,” Stropnicky said.


“If you’ve never experienced community-centered performance, you’re in for a treat,” added the director, whose previous shows in this genre include the local “Letters to the Editor” as well as the inaugural “Flood Stories.” He’s also worked on similar projects in other states.


“I’m often invited to work with communities that are post-trauma,” he said.


Surely there was a great deal of trauma in Bloomsburg where, because of an ammonia leak, even the evacuation center was evacuated.


But there are bright spots — some might see them as miracles — in the tapestry Stropnicky has woven. Just listen to the testimony of Eileen Chapman, who ran a small outreach group called Agape. The group was dwindling, with a dearth of funds and only 24 volunteers. Then Chapman learned Agape would be handling flood relief. Soon she had upward of 4,200 volunteers and much to offer the flood victims, including sufficient food donations to serve lunch and dinner every day.


But, as Chapman’s character explains in the “Flood Stories, Too,” one resource in particular was difficult to find.


“The one thing we needed was rubber boots. To put on people to muck out,” she says. “We’d bought out and given out all the boots in Columbia and Montour counties. There were no more rubber boots to be had.”


At that point in the script, a woman walks in and says she has 750 pairs of rubber boots in her pick-up truck. She wants to donate them, as well as the other 750 pairs that happened to be in a warehouse she and her husband bought.


“We didn’t know what to do with them,’ the woman tells Chapman, “so we left them until, until, um, until God asked for boots.”said, “There are only a couple of occasions when I have people telling their own stories.


“There’s a real value in people being able to tell their own story, but there’s a different therapeutic value in the validation that happens when you hear someone else tell your story.


“Theater is built for that, the ability for people to see their story framed.”


So, you can expect to see most participants in this full-stage production playing a role as they tell someone else’s story.


You also can expect a variety of music, with the Bloomsburg Bicentennial Choir singing numbers by present-day composers Van Wagner and Paul Loomis as well as the late Robert Lowry, who wrote “Shall We Gather at the River?” in the 1800s.


“He wrote that at the Susquehanna in Lewisburg. I’m counting it as one of our river songs,” Stropnicky said.


“If you’ve never experienced community-centered performance, you’re in for a treat,” added the director, whose previous shows in this genre include the local “Letters to the Editor” as well as the inaugural “Flood Stories.” He’s also worked on similar projects in other states.


“I’m often invited to work with communities that are post-trauma,” he said.


Surely there was a great deal of trauma in Bloomsburg where, because of an ammonia leak, even the evacuation center was evacuated.


But there are bright spots — some might see them as miracles — in the tapestry Stropnicky has woven. Just listen to the testimony of Eileen Chapman, who ran a small outreach group called Agape. The group was dwindling, with a dearth of funds and only 24 volunteers. Then Chapman learned Agape would be handling flood relief. Soon she had upward of 4,200 volunteers and much to offer the flood victims, including sufficient food donations to serve lunch and dinner every day.


But, as Chapman’s character explains in the “Flood Stories, Too,” one resource in particular was difficult to find.


“The one thing we needed was rubber boots. To put on people to muck out,” she says. “We’d bought out and given out all the boots in Columbia and Montour counties. There were no more rubber boots to be had.”


At that point in the script, a woman walks in and says she has 750 pairs of rubber boots in her pick-up truck. She wants to donate them, as well as the other 750 pairs that happened to be in a warehouse she and her husband bought.


“We didn’t know what to do with them,’ the woman tells Chapman, “so we left them until, until, um, until God asked for boots.”




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