ATLAS OF MUD
By Jennifer Fawcett
> SATURDAY JUNE 12, 2021 | 7:30PM
> SUNDAY JUNE 13, 2021 | 2:00PM
1. IN PERSON - At The Viking Theatre at GrandView University Des Moines, Iowa
2. LIVE STREAM - Join us virtually
> SATURDAY JUNE 19, 2021 | 7:30PM
> SUNDAY JUNE 20, 2021 | 2:00PM
3. LIVE STREAM - Join us virtually
Jennifer Fawcett on the inspiration for Atlas of Mud
The play began as a commission by a Canadian company that wanted a play about water myths. I began to look into flood mythology and was fascinated to discover that every civilization (at least all of the ones I looked at) had a flood myth. It makes sense so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised but I was really struck by the similarities I found in the stories - similarities that crossed culture, language, and time. Water is destructive and generative so the idea of a new beginning was always there in some way.
I, like so many, was horrified by the images of people in this country who looked like refugees. I began to get very interested in the politics of survival -- who gets to escape, who doesn't... "
I was a few drafts into the play when I moved down to Iowa for grad school in 2005. A few weeks after I arrived, Hurricane Katrina struck. I, like so many, was horrified by the images of people in this country who looked like refugees. I began to get very interested in the politics of survival -- who gets to escape, who doesn't, so I started trying to work that in.
A month after I graduated from UIowa (2008), the flood hit. I had never experienced anything like that before. I helped some friends who had to evacuate from their apartment with hardly any notice, and I spent many hours in long lines sandbagging. It was strange because it was this unstoppable destruction but, unlike a hurricane or tornado, it happened slowly and under the bluest June skies. I had spent three years in Iowa City by then, but those hours spent sandbagging were one of the first times that I felt like part of a community (outside the theatre building) so it was very positive, but watching the water rise on the arts campus that I had spent the past three years becoming a playwright in was also emotional. So that experience got woven into the play as well.
That was when I realized that faith and science are actually alike; both require a step into the unknown."
I was interested in faith and in science but I thought they were polar opposites. I won the National Science Playwriting Award and as part of my award, I got to do some readings of the play in Boston. One of these was at MIT where I was told the audience would be made up of scientists. There was going to be a talkback after and I expected that they would be very unimpressed with my impossible science and would spend the whole time telling me I should just rewrite the whole thing but, for goodness' sake, make it more accurate. Instead, we had the most amazing conversation. A number of the scientists in the audience had gone down to Louisiana during and after Katrina and they talked to me about their faith, about how important it was to them in witnessing that destruction. They didn't want to talk about science at all. That was when I realized that faith and science are actually alike; both require a step into the unknown. That realization is what helped me get the play where it is now.
National Science Playwriting Award, Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, 2008
JENNIFER FAWCETT, Playwright
READINGS/WORSHOPS ATLAS OF MUD: The Inkwell, Lied Center (KS), Central Square Theatre, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Lark PLay Development Center, Kennedy Center Lab, Union Eight Theatre; PRODUCTIONS ATLAS OF MUD: Working Group Theatre (Iowa City), Collin College (TX), OTHER PLAYS: Riverside Theatre (Iowa City), Phoenix Theatre (Indiana), Source Festival, Centenary Stage Company, Available Light Theatre, Uprising Theatre Company (Minneapolis), Tennessee Women’s Theatre Project, The Drilling Company, Adirondack Theatre Festival, Alcyone Festival (Chicago), Theatre Masters, Hatchery Festival, Berkeley Rep's Ground Floor Residency, Banff Playwrights Colony, The Inkwell, Lark Playwrights' Week, Cultural Conversations (Penn State), National New Play Network MFA Workshop at the Kennedy Center; AWARDS Kennedy Center National Science Playwriting Award (ATLAS OF MUD), National New Play Network Smith Prize for Political Theatre, Susan Glaspell Award (APPLES IN WINTER), NEFA National Theatre Project Award (OUT OF BOUNDS), ATCA/Steinberg New Play Award Nominee (BIRTH WITCHES); TRAINING University of Iowa (MFA Playwrights Workshop); Curious Theatre Company-Denver (National New Play Network Emerging-Playwright-In-Residence).