Still Waters in a Storm

As we enter our 2010-2011 season at the Bushwick Starr, we’d like to introduce some of our friends who will be working with us on our new Big Green Theater environmental education program.

This month, we’d like you to meet our writing partners, the Bushwick group Still Waters in a Storm.

This Saturday, Sept. 11th at 7 PM, Still Waters in a Storm will present a very special event, What to Read if You’re Poor – a panel discussion about reading and writing, at The Performing Garage, moderated by The Wooster Group’s Kate Valk, with panelists including Russell Banks, Peter Carey, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Peter Hedges, Richard Price and Mark Rowlands. The suggested donation is $20.

Still Waters in a Storm is a reading and writing group led by Stephen Haff.  The group meets every Saturday afternoon at The Room, the group’s home in Bushwick; Stephen is also at The Room from 2 PM to 6 PM Monday through Thursday, when tutoring and homework help are available from volunteers, as well as “the simple offer of a place to find peace.”

The Room is spacious, quiet, and full of light. Books of all kinds are strewn across the big table that the young writers gather around. Everyone is encouraged to write for the better part of an hour, and then to read their own work aloud; the group listens to each reader, and then responds with “No praise and no criticism,” Stephen says, “just questions. We communicate our experience as we listen.” The Still Waters motto is “writing, reading and compassion.” Stephen also often chooses a book for the group to read aloud together. They have recently read books by authors Mark Rowlands, Russell Banks and Richard Price.

This October, the writers will begin weekly meetings with Big Green Theater teaching artists to learn about writing for the stage, and about the ideas behind green theater. They’ll also meet with scientists and environmental activists, who will help them learn about pressing local and global environmental issues. The young playwrights’ work will be produced at the Bushwick Starr in April 2011, with a professional group of actors, directors and designers bringing the pieces to life.

Two of the young writers, Curtiiz and Reeyaz, join the group every Saturday to write and read their work aloud, as well as listen to others’ contributions. Curtiiz started coming to Still Waters two years ago; she didn’t read her work the first day, but she’s been writing and reading ever since. “It’s non-judgmental and relaxed here,” Curtiiz says. Reeyaz joined Still Waters when his mom was helping him look for a math tutor; Stephen connected Reeyaz with a tutor who helped him, but Reeyaz stayed to write – and now he’s working on a monologue from Dialogues of the Dead, as an actor. He says that Still Waters is “a place to be yourself”. Curtiiz adds, “Come and see for yourself. It’s a place where everyone’s different, and everyone’s the same.”

Curtiiz and Reeyaz both say that they’ve thought about the impact people can have on the environment. This summer, they visited the Bushwick Starr’s new hydroponic rooftop garden – operated by Boswyck Farms. They are looking forward to learning about reducing, reusing, recycling, growing – and creating plays that will help them, and their colleagues, learn about the world around them.

Stephen Haff taught for years at high schools and colleges in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Vermont and Canada. At Bushwick High School in Brooklyn, he co-founded Real People Theater (RPT) with his students. Stephen used to make his living writing for the VOICE, AMERICAN THEATRE, BOMB, and other publications, and earned his Masters at Yale University.

Stephen spends Monday through Thursday afternoons from 2 to 6 and every Saturday afternoon at The Room – 286 Stanhope St., Ground Floor, between Irving and Wyckoff, in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Still Waters in a Storm always needs volunteers; if you’d like to help, contact stephenhaff@gmail.com.

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