When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, Arianna Ngnomire ’19 was just a kid, an 8-year-old living in Virginia, horrified by the television news stories of “all these people dying in their homes.”
All that seemed like a long time ago. Until this week, when Ngnomire joined rehearsals for Chapman University’s production of Katrina: The K Word. The 18-year-old screen-acting major plays a young woman who was one of the thousands crowded into the Louisiana Superdome in the wake of the hurricane and the failure of the levees. Surprising to Ngnomire is how much emotional power the play brings to the surface.
Katrina: The K Word
Directed by Connor Duffey ’16
Performances at 7:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, Sept. 21-23,
in the Studio Theatre, Moulton Hall.
Admission is free.
“We’re still very passionate and are near anger toward it,” Ngnomire said during a break in rehearsals this week.
Katrina: The K Word was written by playwrights who visited New Orleans and shaped the readers’ theatre-style play from the interviews they conducted with people who lived through Katrina. The 12 characters range from a New Orleans chef to a woman who endures a weeklong wait for news of her husband.
Chapman’s production marks the 10th anniversary of the hurricane. It will be performed as a reading and is made possible by a unique collaboration between the College of Performing Arts and Student Civic Engagement. Because of that partnership the cast includes a wide range of campus members, from undergraduates to Ph.D. students.
Such variety lends a unique learning opportunity for students to perform in a production alongside faculty, says Justin Koppelman, assistant director of Student Civic Engagement, who, alongside Theresa Dudeck, Ph.D., in the Department of Theatre, worked to make this event possible here at Chapman.
And it’s a good way to revisit some-not-so-distant history, he says.
“It’s exciting to see these different parts of our campus community coming together to help us all learn important lessons from our nation’s past,” Koppelman says.
Koppelman and Chris Hutchinson, director Student Engagement, teach a New Orleans Interterm Leadership Studies travel course about the political, social and governance decisions that played into the Katrina story. They, along with the cast and survivors of Katrina, will be part of the post-performance talkbacks.
(Photo courtesy of Dale Dudeck Photography)