"Hell and Highwater" Opens at Sage: Art and Academics Intersect

October 15, 2011 at 9:53 am

Classroom and Theater Reflect Living Lessons on Natural Disasters

Art and Academics Intersect at Sage

Troy, NY --- According to Jim Brennan, associate professor at Russell Sage College in Troy, “There is nothing ‘natural’ about a natural disaster.”  Disasters are not equal opportunity events and often have a heartier impact on low income, marginalized populations. 

Severe weather events including hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes recently produced big headlines and big heartache locally and globally.  Disasters remain unpredictable and powerful reminders of the untameable and relentless force of nature and of the equally tender and resilient nature of the human spirit.  Often leaving long- lasting, catastrophic consequences in their wake, disasters provide countess stories to be told – and many of those stories are being told at Russell Sage College this Fall, both in the classroom and on stage.   

The Creative and Performing Arts Department at Sage will present Hell and Highwater, or Lessons for When the Sky Falls, on October 27-30 at the James L. Meader Little Theater on Sage’s Troy campus.  The award-winning play, written by Jamuna Yvette Sirker who lived in New Orleans, is poetic, satiric and unexpectedly funny;  it premiered in NYC last year.  A special benefit performance will be held on October 26 for Troy Area United Ministries.  All funds raised will be donated to help Troy residents repair the flood-related ravages of Hurricane Irene.

Directed by Leigh Strimbeck, assistant professor of theater, Hell and Highwater depicts the tragedy and triumph of Hurricane Katrina through stories of survival and the follies of the recovery efforts as told through the eyes of a fictional survivor and a colorful collection of friends.

On the heels of the devastation of Hurricane Irene, Sage offers another unique opportunity to understand the complexities and impact of natural disasters through a new course co-taught by two medical anthropologists, one of whom also happens to be the president of the College. 

President Susan Scrimshaw , an internationally renowned medical anthropologist and Jim Brennan, associate professor of physical therapy and a medical anthropologist, hope to expose students to a broader perspective on the medical and cultural implications of natural disasters.  The 3-credit undergraduate course, offered for the first time this semester, explores in-depth comparisons to Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti and covers issues including:  race, class, gender, government response, resilience, health and illness, art, culture and religion. 

Art and academics intersect during Hell and Highwater performances - students enrolled in The Medical Anthropology of Disaster will be disseminating disaster-themed information at  performances.  President Scrimshaw will lead an audience discussion following the opening performance and claims, “This play is timely and relevant for our region in light of the recent floods, and in light of our need as a nation to understand how to become more resilient and more equitable in the face of disasters.”  The playwright, Jamuna Yvette Sirker, will also attend the opening night discussion.

Hell and Highwater, or Lessons for When the Sky Falls 

Special performance: 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011, 7PM (Benefit for TAUM, all tickets $12)


October 27, 28, 29 at  8pm

Sunday, October 30 at  2pm

James L. Meader Little Theater

Russell Sage College, Troy campus

Tickets:  $10 adults, $8 students/seniors 

Box Office :  (518) 244-2248  www.sage.edu/capa

Group Discounts available

Strong language, ages 15 and up