August 5, 2016
By Angelique Stolar
A transplant to the Pittsburgh area, Paul Kruse of Hatch Arts Collective has quickly immersed himself into the local community. With its first play, Chickens in the Yard, Hatch Arts Collective realized the importance of addressing social justice issues in art. When Paul’s younger brother, Joe, who works as an environmental activist, was arrested while protesting the extraction of sand for fracking in Minneapolis, Hatch Arts decided to create a play that focused on environmental justice and activism. This decision resulted in the creation of the first phase of Driftless, which is a fictional narrative play based on Joe’s experience. After finishing Driftless phase two, Hatch Arts decided to take the issue even further and create a full-length play about hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. What really stands out about Paul’s work on Driftless is his emergence into the fracking community.
Through interviews with individuals on all sides of the fossil fuel industry, Paul not only came to understand the process of fossil fuel extraction, but also developed a profound understanding of the impacts that fracking has on the community. As Dana Dolney of Friends of the Harmed pointed out, others often take advantage of people’s stories for profit without actually putting in the time and effort to engage with the communities on a personal level. Paul, along with Adil Mansoor and Nicole Shero of Hatch Arts Collective, hoped to avoid this disengagement by getting out and truly connecting with the community. This connection has allowed them to create a play that gives an accurate and well-rounded portrayal of the world of fracking.
Since fracking is not always seen as an important problem in Pittsburgh, Driftless has become a way to present the issue to a crowd that may not normally be exposed to such a topic.
Dana expressed her appreciation for Paul’s work by saying, “One of the wonderful things that he’s doing is taking this opportunity to show this other side of the issue, and, he’s doing it to a crowd that we, as activists, haven’t really been able to reach here in Pittsburgh. Hatch Arts is also giving back to the grassroots community by allowing us to table at the event.”
In his response, Paul emphasized that good activism, as well as good art, happens in the context of a community. Both Paul and Dana agree that reciprocity is vital in the grassroots world since there tends to be little support from outside sources.
Driftless is not only unique because of the community involvement, but also because of the style in which it is written. Paul classified the play as an “inspired narrative,” meaning that it is inspired by real events, but the characters and story are fictional.
“The reason we chose to write Driftless in this style is because, with something like documentary style, you’re taking someone’s story and putting it on another person’s body, and that’s not what we wanted to do here,” Paul explained.
The full-length version of Driftless tells the story of a family living in Washington, PA where fracking is taking place. The play follows the family through trials and tribulations that are presumably the results of living with air and water that have been polluted by fracking. Saint Peter and Saint Barbara narrate the family’s experiences while providing valuable insights about the effect that fracking can have on our own lives, families, and futures.
“My goal is to evoke empathy in people,” Paul said about his hopes for the play. “What I try to do with my work is tell the story you can see yourself in. It’s not always the horror story, but it provides folks that aren’t already engaged in the conversation to have access to the conversation.”
Driftless will be performed August 11th, 12th, and 13th at the New Hazlett Theater on Allegheny Square in Pittsburgh at 8:00 p.m. There will also be a performance at the New Hazlett Theater on August 14th at 2:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance on Hatch Arts Collective’s website for $15. Tickets at the door will be $20. Hatch Arts is also offering a $5 discount on tickets to people who have been directly affected by fracking. These discount tickets can be purchased by using the code “FRACKED” when checking out online.
Funding for Driftless was provided by the A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation, Opportunity Fund, the Puffin Foundation Ltd, the Small Arts Initiative of the Heinz Endowments, Three Rivers Community Foundation, and the William V. and Catherine A. McKinney Charitable Trusts through the PNC Charitable Trust Grant Review Committee.
This performance was supported in part by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.