"Until the Flood," written and performed by Dael Orlandersmith, at Repertory Theater in St. Louis in 2016. (Photo by Peter Wochniak/ProPhotosSTL)

Deeper Dive: A closer look at ‘Until the Flood’

"Until the Flood," written and performed by Dael Orlandersmith, at Repertory Theater in St. Louis in 2016. (Photo by Peter Wochniak/ProPhotosSTL)

‘Until the Flood,’ written and performed by Dael Orlandersmith, presented at St. Louis’ Repertory Theater in 2016. Photo by Peter Wochniak of ProPhotosSTL.

Dael Orlandersmith’s unsparing look at the Ferguson riots ‘is an urgent moral inquest’

  • Until the FloodWritten by and starring: Dael Orlandersmith
  • Year written: 2016
  • Director: Neel Keller
  • Dates: March 20-May 3, 2020 (Opens March 27)
  • Where: Jones Theatre
  • The play at a glance: After the death of Michael Brown shook the nation to its core, Pulitzer Prize finalist and Obie Award winner Dael Orlandersmith set out to explore the social unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, that followed. Using hundreds of interviews she conducted, Orlandersmith created eight fictional characters to represent the broad spectrum of perspectives that continue to define the city and our country at large. In this one-actor play starring the playwright herself, Orlandersmith takes the audience on a gripping, emotional journey as she embodies people from all sides of the controversy in this mesmerizing, fluidly poetic piece. In Denver, audiences will see first-hand why Orlandersmith was called “one of the country’s top talents for solo performance” by Time Out Chicago.
  • Who was Michael Brown? Brown was an 18-year-old African American man who was fatally shot by 28-year-old Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on August 9, 2014. The killing ignited more than a week of protests and violent unrest, including police militarization, throughout the city. Within three months, more than 250 demonstrations had been held worldwide in solidarity with Ferguson.
  • Quote from the script: “Every day I pass that shrine to Michael Brown. I pass it every day. Every single day. And I think: ‘That could be me. That really could have been me. That could have been my blood flowing on this street.’ And I think: ‘I got one more year to get out. Just one more year.’ Please, God. Let me get out. Just let me get out.”
  • About the playwright: Orlandersmith was born Donna Dael Theresa Orlander Smith Brown in 1959 and lived her early years in public housing in New York City’s East Harlem. She attended Hunter College but left to pursue acting and playwriting. She was a 2002 Pulitzer Prize finalist for writing Yellowman and later received a New York Foundation for the Arts Grant, The Helen Merrill Award for Emerging Playwrights, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the 2005 PEN Award for a playwright in mid-career. She won her Obie Award for writing Beauty’s Daughter. She has toured with the Nuyorican Poets Cafe throughout the world.
  • Says Artistic Director Chris Coleman: “I love what is coming from solo performers in the American theatre. Dael is one of the most celebrated African American playwrights right now. She is one of the most extraordinary artists I’ve had an opportunity to produce and work with over the years, and we are delighted that she will perform her profound one-woman show.”

Dael Orlandersmith talks about the making of Until the Flood

  • From the author: “I’m interested in the outsiders – the people who don’t necessarily fit. I’m interested in the thing that gives you permission to be uncomfortable. I like dark work because you’re forced to learn about certain things. That’s what interests me.”
  • What critics have said about Until the Flood: “She brings the questions, the pain and even the unspeakable thoughts of hundreds, if not millions, to life. Until The Flood is an urgent moral inquest.” — Jesse Green, The New York Times. … “Until the Flood offers a heartrending demonstration of the potential of art to reach across cultural boundaries and generate the kind of empathy that could potentially help bring us all closer together.” – Kenji Fujishima, TheaterMania
  • Side note: Denver audiences got their first look at the then-rising playwright back in 2004 when Curious Theatre presented Yellowman, a play that explored the combustible racial question: “Where does black end and white begin?” At the time, Orlandersmith, said in an interview: “The roots of racism in America may be embedded in slavery, but the people who have been enslaved have taken on the very bias that’s been done unto us … and I don’t want to let anyone off the hook.”

John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S. by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.

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Artistic Director Chris Coleman talks about ‘Until the Flood.’


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