BLOOMSBURG - Gerard Stropnicky aptly paraphrases one of Abraham Lincoln's phrases in describing "Flood Stories Too" as "... theater of, by and for the people of this place."
Written and directed by former BTE member, Stropnicky, "Flood Stories Too" brings 70 diverse citizens on stage, raising their voices in words and songs to tell how their valley and lives were transformed by tropical Storm Lee in the fall of 2011. Remaining 7:30 p.m. performances are tonight, Friday and Saturday, with a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday, and the finale at 3 p.m. on Sunday at the Alvina Krause Theatre, 226 Center St.
Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble presented Stropnicky's "Flood Stories," which told Bloomsburg residents' stories from the then recording breaking flood of 2006.
Remaining 7:30 p.m. performances of “Flood Stories Too” are tonight, Friday and Saturday, with a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday, and the finale at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Alvina Krause Theatre, 226 Center St., Bloomsburg.
This edition may have been called "Flood Stories Two," but is more accurately titled "Flood Stories Too," as it is both a series of individual snapshots and a tapestry of communities up and down the Susquehanna River that will never be the same again since the devastating flood waters savagely struck in Sept., 2011.
This production is an amazing large and collaborative effort with Bloomsburg University Players. There are 70 performers seated on risers on stage, including the Bloomsburg Bicentennial Choir, which provides both traditional ("Shall We Gather Together at the River?") and newer songs. The cast includes eight BTE members and eight BU students who play different residents as well as many community actors, 20 of whose homes were destroyed by the flood waters. Stropnicky notes that if the "victims" are not telling their own story, they are "telling stories of others whose stories need to be told."
The age of the cast ranges from 6 to "mind-your-own-business." Stropnicky and the BTE staff has pared down 162 interviews into a realistic portrait of how the community reacted - some first learning how to trust the massive number of volunteers before they could allow others to provide care.
There are segments of the effects of the flooding not only in Bloomsburg but in Wilkes-Barre, Shickshinny, Benton and Milton (with two young girls describing how it was both "Fun and Scary" to be in Milton). Stories cover the enormous generosity and donations from resturants, Bloomsburg University students pitching in; organizing efforts and care provided by Agape, a non-demonimational Christian organization; Mennonites helping out and countless others whose compassion struck a chord with the flood victims then - and definitely with audiences today.
There are some startling statistics: "Fully one-fourth of our homes were damaged, condemned or simply gone." But it is the personal recollections that are the play's core: stories are told by Bloomsburg's mayor, its fire chief, a Columbia County Commissioner, the president of Bloomsburg University, volunteer firemen, BU students (school was in session when the flood hit) and the president of the Bloomsburg Fair, who had to make a last-minute decision to cancel the fair for the first time ever.
And, maybe suprisingly, several of these stories are funny. Stropnicky says that there were many funny moments recalled as well as poignant ones. The flood may have been called by a puppet brought to Bloomsburg by a resident who admits that she was told that the puppet would cause the "water demon" to wreck havoc.
Played with an intermission, the pacing is lively and the format varied as the stories are told. Adding a hometown musical touch to the choir's songs is Paul Loomis with his guitar and harmonica, singing original tunes penned by himself and fellow composer Van Wagner.
And there also is choreography, mainly from the rows of seated performers who do the wave - an appropriate name - and other movements while the troubadour sings. For residents of Bloomsburg, "Flood Stories Too" must often be engrossing; for the audience, it is always engaging. BTE members live in the town and have reason to celebrate the nationally acclaimed efforts of the theater, which is in its 35th year. And "Flood Stories Too" is also a celebration of the generosity of friends and strangers following this disaster. Having these stories told is a vivid example how theatre can help with a community's healing from the trama.
Plaudits to BTE and Bloomsburg University for bringing "Flood Stories" to the stage; the voices raised in this production deserve to be heard. All performances of "Flood Stories, Too" are "pay what you wish". All tickets are general admission and not available for on-line purchase.
For advance ticket sales, call 784-8181. Tickets also will be sold at the door one hour before curtain time.