Stages Theater Offers Students and Educators Free Tickets to cullud wattah

Cast members from cullud waddah, the play about the Flint water crisis.
Cast members from cullud waddah, the play about the Flint water crisis. Photo by Melissa Taylor

During a recent management team meeting at Stages theater where all sorts of concerns and ideas are discussed, one member brought up recent legislation in Texas that has targeted diversity and inclusion in state institutions and schools as well as the march to limit the books in school libraries. 

As Stages Managing Director Katie Maltais describes it, all manner of future programs were discussed about how Stages could bring a wider range of ideas and experiences out to students who may no longer encounter them in their schools.

But then Maltais, said, the question was: "What can we do today? What's one step that Stages can take today to help with this massive, seismic challenge that particularly educators are facing?"

As it so happens they have the perfect play on stage right now, cullud wattah, that speaks to environmental racism that went on during the Flint, Michigan water crisis lasting for years. And how three generations of women survived during this time.

"It's something that you aren't going to find in school today," she said.

Stages' "now" decision is to offer free tickets to students and educators to the show, throwing its doors wide open to those who might never otherwise get to see a work like this, up close and personal.

"The thing that most troubles us as people working in the arts is the lack of access to different perspectives," Maltais said. "As we think about everything from book bans to language that would remove the ability to talk about gender and sexual identity identity in schools to DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] being removed and then we couple that with a real fear that young people are only getting their news from their social media feeds. So there's this real removal of the Fourth Estate as part of our life.

"How are especially young people accessing different perspectives if they're not confronted with them at school or in their online lives. And that is really what theater is designed to do.  In my view, theater is there to provide you with empathy, understanding, joy — all of the different emotions that might come from understanding where someone who is either very much like you or different than you has experienced the world. "

Stages hopes to reach students who might never think of going to the theater or who wouldn't think of theater as being able to provide an experience they wouldn't get any other way, Maltais said.

cullud wattah performances continue through March 31 at Stages Theater. Free tickets can be requested directly at the box office by showing a student or teacher ID. Students and educators can also call and reserve tickets, and a valid ID will be checked at the box office upon arrival. At the moment, online reservations are not available.
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