Theatre and the Flint, Michigan Water Crisis

To all of you who live in and around Flint, Michigan:
My daughter is involved in an amazing new project. This is a letter she recently sent:

First off: Please forgive this super long message! But seeing as we don’t know each other, I thought a real introduction was in order!

I’m Jen Plants, the Carl Djerassi Playwriting Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I teach writing for the theatre and performance studies. My specialities include documentary theatre and the way ideas about race are performed in America, and I’m hoping my next project will be a documentary work of theatre about the Flint water crisis.

I’ll be in Flint December 15-18, and I’d welcome the opportunity to sit down and hear your story.

I was born and raised in Michigan. I went to public schools in Grand Blanc, and I got my career start early at the Flint Youth Theatre. Ultimately, the artistic director of Flint Community Theatre encouraged me to go to college to study theatre, and the rest, well, is history. Flint is a city I love, and its people and places made me who I am today.

I make nonfiction theatre based on real life issues and events. My most recent work, No Feedback, is about the forms of discrimination that lead to genocides. It premiered in London in May and is continuing development for a European tour this summer.

I’ve been following the recent water crisis in Flint with alarm. The ongoing story of Flint needs to be told and repeated and remembered throughout the nation. The people of Flint have truth to speak to power–theirs is a story of global implications.

I’m interested in the voices of those citizens on the frontlines–the individual stories that can too easily get lost in the historical record of events–and I hope that the core of my work will be taken from personal interviews.

Interview-based theatre has covered a huge variety of subjects from Hurricane Katrina to those exonerated from death row sentences. This kind of play preserves the voices of the people who are most impacted by an event, and most importantly, through performance, it gives others a present-tense experience that invites both empathy and action.

I can meet just about any time from the afternoon of Tuesday, December 15 through the morning of December 18. I can also make just about any location work–I’d welcome the chance to buy you a cup of coffee (or bring you some donuts from Donna’s.)

My goal is simply this: to use art and the power of live theatre to tell your stories–Flint’s story.

Any questions? Just ask!

Hopeful that we can meet and talk soon,
Jen Plants

One thought on “Theatre and the Flint, Michigan Water Crisis


    This sounds like an ambitious project. I’d be happy to talk to Jen. We are back and forth between Grand Blanc and Traverse City, but I expect to be in town on Dec 16th-18. Maybe we can work something out.  However, we do not have Flint city water at our house so I may not be the best person to say what effect this has had. I do think that she should talk to Martha and Kelly who actually live in Flint and are, therefore, impacted very directly by the water crisis.  If I think longer about it, I may think of other people she should talk to. Right now, I’m thinking that a visit to the water department and the doctor who discovered the lead in the water would be in order. I’m sorry, but I don’t know the name of the doctor, but I’ve seen her on TV. She went to testify about the problems.  I know WJRT-TV did a lot of work on this.  Oooo, that’s who else she should be in touch with. Angie Hendershot at WJRT and Matt Franklin at WJRT. WJRT sponsored a drive to provide water filters for people and even bottled water. There are community activists who have been interviewed, but I don’t know the names.  Flint has a new mayor, female and African-American, maybe Karen Weaver is her name. I don’t know if you remember Jan Worth (Flint poet), but she is still around at UM-Flint. Even though I think she retired, I know she is still around Flint because I saw her at the Flint Farmers Market a couple of weeks ago.  She might be interesting to talk to about all of this. That’s another place that she might find people to talk to, the Flint Farmers Market. It’s open Tues. Thurs. and Saturday. Mart hangs out there and might suggest vendors or people to talk to there.  Many of the Flint churches are involved in the drive to provide water filters and bottled water for people. It might be useful to find out which of the churches in Flint are the most notable in their work with this and see about talking to some people there.   Okay, these are just a few of my thoughts right now.  Hope some of this was helpful.  

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