Daniella Topol on (Not) Water / by Declan Maloney Drummond

(Not) Water is being described brilliantly as

"Sheila Callaghan and Daniella Topol’s epic exploration

of their epic exploration

of an element so epic

it’s taken a decade to explore."

How did the project come about in the first place and how has it gestated?

Sheila and I had a fantastic time working together on DEAD CITY.  When that show closed, we knew we wanted to make something together.  She shared with me this monologue she wrote in response to Katrina.  It was a girl on her rooftop hoping to be rescued.  It was captivating.  When we worked on it, we knew we had to build a bigger piece about WATER.  So…we began a long journey where we explored creating three parts of the WATER experience…originally it was that the first part was a mythic global flood, part 2 was 50 years post-flood, and part 3 was looking at mythology.  We developed each of these parts at different places - HERE, Baryshnikov Arts Center, the 14th Street Y, CultureMart,and many other places.  The piece kept changing with the changing global conversation about the environment and our changing aesthetics to making work.  We still have 3 parts - only these parts are now divided into 1. the making of a piece about WATER  2. post-flood and what it takes to survive  3. meditation and storytelling

How does the show fit in with the rest of the multidisciplinary program of works?

The performance piece is in conversation with the visual art.  It is all a related conversation about the ways in which humanity interacts with water - emotionally, aesthetically, intellectually, viscerally.  All of the exhibits create such poignant portraits of these complexities.  Many of them are quite meditative.  Many of their pieces are quite theatrical.  So are our pieces. How do we engage with water and the conversations about our waterways and the safety of our landscape.

Has this show required a different kind of design and rehearsal process to how you’ve worked in the past?

Most definitely. My primary focus is directing work that is already scripted.  I only direct new plays so I am used to the playwright changing the text as we rehearse.  With (NOT) WATER (formally known as WATER, or the secret life of objects), Sheila, the designers and I are creating the roadmap collectively.  There is a huge part of this project that is solely design-based.  It is part theater, part installation, part meditation.  This piece and process has challenged us to keep exploring, reinventing, and reimagining.  Four days after we got into the space, we switched the set-up from audience only on one-side to the audience being in the round.  That shift then changed lots of other elements about the experience…So, we have had to be continually nimble, exploratory, and humble.