“Water By the Spoonful” a Hit for UW Tacoma Theater

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With a cast composed of UW Tacoma students, a faculty member, an alumna and renowned South Sound actors, the Pulitzer-prize-winning play sold out five on-campus performances.

Community of Artists

  • Nikkia Atkinson as Yaz - student, Arts, Media & Culture; Communication
  • Marilyn Bennett, Director - Part-Time Lecturer, UW Tacoma
  • Lucas Gomez as Elliot - student, Computer Science & Systems
  • Alex Leas as Professor/Ghost/Policeman - Green River College Theatre Company
  • Jillian Mae Lee as ORANGUTAN - 2015 B.A. Writing Studies
  • Walt Moore as FOUNTAINHEAD - UW Tacoma Lecturer, School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences
  • Deya Ozburn as HAIKUMOM/Odessa - affiliate artist, Toy Boat Theater
  • Tony Williams as CHUTES&LADDERS - South Sound actor

(Photo above by Peter Serko. Used with permission.)

On the heels of winter’s staged reading of “Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue,” UW Tacoma Theater continued Quiara Alegría Hudes’ trilogy with her Pulitzer Prize-winning sequel, “Water by the Spoonful.” Bringing together students, faculty, alumni, and community actors, director Marilyn Bennett offered a complex and heart-wrenching story of addiction and recovery in the modern day.

“Water by the Spoonful” is the latest collaboration between Toy Boat Theatre, UW Tacoma Theater and STAG, the Student Theater Acting Guild. The story focuses on the Ortiz clan. Elliot Ortiz is a Marine Corps veteran struggling with loss, chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and societal reintegration. Yaz Ortiz, a music theory professor and composer, seeks to find balance in the conflicts around her. Odessa Ortiz, Elliot’s estranged mother, is a 7-years-sober addict who helps others in recovery through an internet forum she moderates. Eventually the three stories collide, bringing harsh memories to the surface and testing the resilience of each Ortiz.

Bennett is overjoyed by the fruits of the troupe’s labor, from her perspective as director as well as a part-time lecturer at UW Tacoma.

“The growth of the students engaged with ‘Spoonful’ occurred in so many areas,” Bennett said. “On so many levels. Confidence and access to emotional truth onstage, ownership of the technical aspects of production and the process of collaboration across roles and duties, engagement with the ideas in the play, and a communal joy in working with such an eclectic gathering of artists.” With such a diversity of experience in the acting corps, Bennett said, “each learned from the other, student actors surprised even themselves, local actors mentored and inspired the students, and there was a measurable rise in the overall fun factor.”

"Water By the Spoonful" cast, front row from left: Jillian Mae Lee, '15; Deya Ozburn; Lucas Gomez. Back from from left: Walt Moore, Nikkia Atkinson, Alex Leas, Tony Williams. Photo by Peter Serko. Used with permission.Reprising his leading role as the title character in “Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue,” Lucas Gomez was eager for the opportunity to portray the complex character. “Learning how to ride his emotional rollercoaster was a challenge, I would say I've grown as an actor in terms of experience with showing emotion,” he said.  Playing Elliot required Gomez not only to capture the emotional capacity of the character but also to perform a variety of physical acts including a choreographed fight scene.

“Water” brought together members of the UW Tacoma community in ways they would not typically collaborate. Lecturer Walter Moore played the role of John, aka Fountainhead. “Honestly, I haven't felt like a faculty member while I've been rehearsing in the black box of Cherry Parkes for this production,” he said. Writing studies alumna and STAG veteran Jillian Mae Lee returned to her alma mater for the opportunity to play the role of Orangutan. “As an alumna, it's a unique experience where I can impart some knowledge of theater while also speaking to those who want to learn. I love what theater can do,” said Lee.

“Water” challenges actors and viewers with many difficult and complex themes, chief among them trauma. Stagehand and student Beck Adelante noted that the overriding message of the play isn’t negative. “I think the way the play handles addiction, grudges, and forgiveness is really engaging. It really is a way to engender empathy and understanding,” said Adelante.

UW Tacoma Theater hopes to finish Hudes’ trilogy with a table-reading of “The Happiest Song Plays Last.” “We all have been deeply moved by the so-human story Hudes tells in ‘Spoonful,’ and feel honored and excited to share it with the community,” said Bennett.

And the door is wide open for those with a hankering to engage in this form of storytelling. “Theatre at UW Tacoma is still in its infancy, which means there is room for any and all with interest,” said Bennett.

Written by: 
Zakari Kaletka / May 23, 2017
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or johnbjr@uw.edu