Christina Anderson wakes up a wave of emotion with a ripple

Playwright explains why writing is her calling
Christina Anderson wakes up a wave of emotion with a ripple
Christina Anderson (Photo courtesy of The Goodman Theatre)

Playwright Christina Anderson has given the world of theater a masterpiece with her latest work, the ripple, the wave that carried me home. The play is a poignant piece that exposes the racism that existed in the early days of public swimming pools and the complex relationship of activist and their children. Rolling out spoke with Anderson about the play, her passion for live theater, and what inspired her to create this work.

When did you realize that being a creative was your calling?

Probably as soon as I could talk. I was always interested in telling stories. I was an only child, so there was a lot of like being by myself and coming up with things. My mother always tells a story that before I knew how to write, I would still try to scribble stuff on paper and tell her what I wrote. I was always interested in it.

It wasn’t until probably high school when I was 15, 16 years old, that I knew that playwriting was going to be my primary source of expression.

Why was it important for you to share the ripple, the wave that carried me home?

I knew that I wanted to write about water in some capacity. I was doing all this research about environmental injustice, the science behind water, the math behind water and all these elements. I came across this book that looked at the history of public pools in America.

Once I started to dive into history, this notion of how swimming was a “White thing,” I just knew I had to write a play about it. It just jumped out at me that this needed to live on the stage. It’s really compelling when I looked at the history. I was really shocked. There’s a lot of history of violence and segregation on the coast over in California and in New York. Because I’m from Kansas, I was really interested in landlocked environments and access to swimming in pools. My play only touches the corner of the history and the complications of it. I encourage folks to read and just do the research.

Christina Anderson wakes up a wave of emotion with a ripple
( L to R ) Christiana Clark (Janice), Brianna Buckley (Gayle), Ronald L. Conner (Edwin), and Aneisa J. Hicks (Helen) in the world premiere production of Christina Anderson’s “the ripple, the wave that carried me home” (Photo courtesy of The Goodman Theatre)

Racism and equality seem to be at the center of the work. However, it is also about the impact of activism on families. Was this something that you wanted to convey with your work? .

Yes, absolutely. One of the things I’ve always been interested in are the children of activists, like the children of MLK and Coretta [King] and the children of Malcolm X and Betty [Shabazz] and the impact that has on a family. That’s always been something I’ve been interested in, the sacrifices that a lot of these Black folks made personally and within their families in order to fight for this larger injustice. Once I knew that the play was going be about swimming and trying to integrate public pools I started to really connect the family drama element of it as well.

Christina Anderson wakes up a wave of emotion with a ripple
(Photo courtesy of The Goodman Theatre)

The ripple, the wave that carried me home is running until Feb. 12, 2023 at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.

Watch the full interview below.

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