Last week, Rhythm Foundation introduced Stephanie Ansin, Founder and Artistic Director of the Miami Theater Center and recent MNT Mastermind Award Winner. After two years of preparation and hard work, this weekend marked the world premier of Ansin’s original play “Everybody Drinks The Same Water,” perhaps her most ambitious project yet.
Set in Córdoba, Spain in the 800s, the fictional Medieval murder mystery, is set during a very real period in history when Christians, Muslims and Jews coexisted in one of the world’s most advanced cities, creating advancements in philosophy, art and science. Ansin wanted to pick a moment of instability and tension within that time, setting the play just after the Christian King Fernando III of Castile and León took control of the city, ending 500 years of Muslim rule. The play revolves around the water supply flowing from the city’s Roman-built aqueducts. Shortly after entering the castle, the new ruler drinks a glass of water and becomes violently ill. His family accuses the Muslim community of attempting to assassinate him, but soon realize that Muslims, Jews and other Christians are getting sick as well. The entire public water supply has been poisoned and anyone who drinks the water becomes deathly ill.
Ansin was interested in the boundaries of tolerance and “set the play at a time of stress. There’s this new ruler, and he’s just been poisoned. So people needed to look for a scapegoat.” She wanted to imagine what would happen in that tension and raises the question how could we find a solution by working together. Instead of pointing fingers at opposing groups, three teenagers of the three different religious backgrounds, the Christian prince, a Jewish midwife and a Muslim girl join forces to solve the mystery.
In preparation for the production, Ansin and Fernando Calzadailla, Co-Writer and Designer, traveled to Córdoba for inspiration and took the actors on field trips to a synagogue, a mosque and a Catholic church. One of the actors said that the first day of rehearsal was like a history lesson; there was even a wall filled with maps and dates and pictures of aqueducts. Calzadilla who designed the set, did the lighting and designed the costumes, said he tried to be historically accurate with the silhouette of the costumes, but not in terms of color, taking more inspiration from Alexander McQueen and the last Dolce & Gabbana season for the Queen’s costume. And like other Miami Theater Center productions, the script and acting is matched by the inspired set design, music and choreography of the production team.
“It’s definitely political. It’s emotional. It’s about looking inside yourself to see how you really are when circumstances are tense” says Ansin.