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Leigh Fondakowski, December 1, 2011 Sarah Lambert and Reeva Wortel, January 31, 2012

Leigh Fondakowski was the Head Writer of The Laramie Project and has been a member of Tectonic Theatre Project since 1995. In the wake of what is now being called the largest environmental disaster in United States history, Fondakowski and visual artist Reeva Wortel (American Portrait Project), along with set designer Sarah Lambert, are creating a play based on interviews with the people of the south coast of Louisiana with an accompanying visual installation of life-sized portraits of the interviewees, which explores both the human and scientific impact of the BP oil drilling disaster of 2010.

Fondakowski spoke in 2011 about the work in progress, and the completed play,
“Spill, was the subject of a December 2013 NY Times blog.

Fondakowski is an Emmy nominated co-screenwriter for the adaptation of The Laramie Project for HBO. Her play, The People’s Temple, has been performed under her direction at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Perseverance Theater, and The Guthrie Theater, and received the Glickman Award for best new play in 2005. Another original play, I Think I Like Girls, premiered at Encore Theater in San Francisco under her direction and was voted one of the top 10 plays of 2002 by The Advocate. Fondakowski was an Imagine Fund Distinguished Visiting Chair at the University of Minnesota during the spring of 2010 when she spoke about her most recent work, Casa Cushman.

Reeva Wortel worked with Fondakowski to gather numerous interviews from a broad sampling of members of the Louisiana community and the surrounding affected area in order to create The Big Spill. Wortel, whose prior work includes “American Portrait Project,” captures the image of thirty interviewee through life size figurative paintings which will be part of a large-scale installation. Driven by a commitment to develop the technique of portraiture beyond its traditional limits, Reeva Wortel has worked in communities as a social justice advocate and artist honing a technique to narrate the individual stories of our time through her portraiture work, a process that involves in-depth interviewing, photography, painting and installation. Wortel has been the recipent of several grants as a muralist, choreograper, and installation artist. She has exhibited her work in Oregon, California, Colorado, New York, Amsterdam and New Zealand.

Sarah Lambert is a set designer and dramaturg. Previous collaborations with Fondakowski and/or Tectonic Theater Project include: set design/dramaturgy for The People’s Temple, dramaturgy for The Laramie Project, set design for Gross Indecency (productions in New York, London, Toronto, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Caracas, Venezuela) and dramaturgy/set design for work-in-progress Casa Cushman. Other design credits include Spectators at an Event (Susan Marshall & Co, BAM Next Wave), Fly, (LCI and Crossroads) and over 150 other pieces produced in New York City and regionally. She has taught design at Cornell University, Hunter and Queens Colleges (CUNY), and has been a visiting artist at Naropa University. She holds a BA from Cornell and an MFA from Yale.

What is the true environmental and human cost of our relentless pursuit of oil? The Big Spill will recount the dramatic story of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon and the subsequent impact on the estuary and marine life, but will also take a close look at the people, the history, the culture, the environmental complexities and crisis facing southern Louisiana, and the long-term impacts of the BP oil drilling disaster.

Fondakowski’s other directing credits include: 3 Seconds in the Key by Deb Margolin (San Francisco Playhouse), The Laramie Project (Berkeley Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Perseverance Theatre), La Voix Humaine by Jean Cocteau (Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh), Agatha by Marguerite Duras (French Alliance, New York), Gwen John adapted from the novel by Jane Warrick (HERE, New York), and readings and workshops of new plays by Jeff Baron, Stephen Belber, Colman Domingo, Laura Eason and Lisa Ramirez.

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