The Current Logo

Bringing the Steward Family to Life

Written by Patricia Enciso
October 17, 2015

One week after all of the students had read about and discussed the events leading up to and following Hurricane Katrina, and after reading State of Emergency, and creating mini-graphic stories, Allison, Gayle, and Pat planned a sequence of experiences  that invited students to represent an imagined family living in New Orleans in August 2005.   We agreed that by creating a family who just got along (more or less) and did all the regular (and crazy) things families do, students could begin to experience how radically changed everything was for people in the Ninth Ward. The students could begin to feel the effects of having your family’s multi-generational home destroyed, loved ones accused, lost, or dying, and your city’s resources and legal system suddenly unavailable or in disarray.   Within this tension between family strength and a city’s unravelling, students could begin to find their own sense of strength and the need to be advocates – who act on their own and others’ behalf, in the midst of great loss.

Walking with the Steward Family : Quick ‘frozen’ images

 Pat led a series of drama representations that gradually built into a history of relationships among the imagined Steward Family.  Through their imagined and ‘lived through’ experiences, students made deeper emotional connections with people they had read about in State of Emergency.  The reality of Katrina’s effects began to feel like something personal and connected to their own lives. 

 The plans we followed to create the Steward Family of New Orleans, Lower Ninth Ward, began simply, with directions to the group, to walk slowly through an open space, designated for our work, in the library where we were meeting.  Pat explained that when she called a number (2,3, 4) they should form a group of that many people, and then listen for the kind of ‘frozen image’ they would make. These images were quick drafts, not polished performances, so they have about 2 minutes to put their image together.  

 Pat planned for six different images, with each one representing a sense of close activity, shared celebration, or quiet times among family members. After everyone made their frozen image, Pat asked them what they were feeling or thinking.  The details of their sensory experiences helped to enliven and deepen everyone’s belief in the family’s presence. 

 We made images representing a range of family activities:  cooking a meal in the kitchen, fixing up a part of the house, helping a neighbor, celebrating a birthday, celebrating the 4th of July, and being quiet in a favorite part of the house. 

  Following our work on images of the Steward Family, Pat asked everyone to write a favorite memory from the viewoint of a family member, young or old.  Pat narrated a history of the family, describing how  many generations  have built a life together in this home in the Ninth Ward.  Directing ther writing, Pat said:  “Decide who you are and what you want to always remember about a time you shared in this house with your family.

Related posts