Come October, the floating homes and boats at Docktown Marina in Redwood City will set the stage for a performance aimed at telling the story of the residents that form its community.
A collaboration between members of the Docktown community and Redwood City-based Fuse Theatre, the one act play slated to open to the public Oct. 19 will feature individual and shared stories of those who have shaped a waterfront lifestyle at the marina just east of Highway 101 and north of Seaport Boulevard.
The performances’ curtains will open just before an early 2018 deadline for residents to vacate the marina, one of the conditions of a plan to end residential use at the marina approved by the City Council in December. Drafted over the course of several months, the plan was aimed at fulfilling the requirements of a lawsuit settled last year with an attorney and Docktown neighbor that found the floating community to be a violation of the public trust.
Stacey Ardelean, Fuse Theatre’s founder and artistic director of the play, has been meeting with Docktown residents alongside Bay Area-based playwright Lane Pianta through interactive workshops since January to learn more about their stories. Though the theme of how people cope with the Bay Area’s rising cost of housing became quickly apparent after just a couple sessions, the warmth of the participants and their enthusiasm for exchanging stories emerged as the prevailing narrative for Ardelean.
“They’ve been very receptive and have included us in their community,” she said. “And that became the story for us.”
A Redwood City resident, Ardelean had been following the community’s fight to remain in their homes for years as legal battles and public hearings related to their legal status unfolded. She started Fuse Theatre two years ago, after 17 years as Sacred Heart Preparatory School’s drama teacher, fulfilling a longtime dream to start a theater company focused on social justice issues affecting the community.
So when stories of Docktown residents were more widely shared in the face of their relocation, Ardelean found in them a match for the types of stories she was hoping to portray.
“I just felt like this is the way that we can do this story,” she said. “We can work with the community and the lens of a playwright to bring this story to life.”
For months, Ardelean, Pianta and actor facilitators have been working with a third of the estimated 100 residents living at Docktown to learn about and hear their stories in their own words. Theater-based games and exercises and downtime spent with residents in their home environment has helped the producers become familiar with their stories and the way they tell them so they can write a script and produce a play that accurately represents their reality.
She said a staged reading of a scene at the end of June was well-received and garnered feedback on ways the script could be improved, which will be helpful as the rest of the play is scripted in the coming weeks before auditions are held at the end of August.
“We wanted to make sure — is this the language, are we representing [them] — because it’s their story,” she said.
Though the play is still being written, Ardelean anticipates the performance to feature the experience of a new resident joining the community for first time and her encounters with some eight other characters. She said auditions will be open to Docktown residents as well as the broader community, but hopes that at least half of those who play the nine characters will be members of the community.
As much as she has enjoyed seeing residents share their stories with each other, Ardelean is aware of the gravity of the looming deadline that lies ahead of all of them. She acknowledged that her work would not be likely, by itself, to stop the plan to relocate Docktown residents from moving forward, and keeping a focus on telling their stories has been key to bringing the play together in just a few short months.
“For us, it’s staying focused on the art and creating a good piece of theater from these stories,” she said.
She said she has heard from residents who have participated in her workshops that the process of telling their stories has felt cathartic, and hopes the shows at least make more people aware of their stories.
“I think it’s important to tell the story of the community and perhaps archive it because we may lose it,” she said.
The public performances are 8 p.m. Oct. 19, 20 and 21 at the Peninsula Yacht Club, 1536 Maple St., in Redwood City. Go to fusetheatre.org for more information.
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