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Oil and Water

Oil and Water
Your Price: $17.95 CDN
Author: Robert Chafe
Publisher: Playwrights Canada Press
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 112
Pub. Date: 2017
Edition: 2nd
ISBN-10: 1770915583
ISBN-13: 9781770915589
Cast Size: 4 women, 6 men

About the Play:

Oil and Water is a full-length drama by Robert Chafe. This play is the incredible true story of Lanier Phillips. Shipwrecked aboard the USS Truxton during World War II, Phillips was the only African American survivor. What happened to this son of the racially segregated south during his time with the people of the Newfoundland town of St. Lawrence forever altered his world, and later inspired him to become a civil rights activist.

Oil and Water is the true story of Lanier W. Phillips, an African American from Georgia who, in 1941, joined the U.S. Navy in an attempt to escape the racism of the segregated Southern U.S. Phillips, who grew up in a community where he saw his elementary school burned to the ground by the Ku Klux Klan, didn't find equality in the navy, but his life changed in February 1942 when his ship, the USS Truxtun, battered by a severe winter storm, was forced onto the rocks of the southeast coast of Newfoundland, killing most of its men. Residents of nearby town of St. Lawrence managed to rescue 46 oil-soaked survivors from the icy waters. The sole African American survivor, eighteen year-old Phillips is the first black man they have ever seen. He was taken to the home of Violet Pike, where she and her family nursed him back to health during the night that followed. Phillips was stunned. Never before had white people treated him with respect, yet here he was, eating dinner with his white hosts, who clearly thought that his life was not only worth saving, but was no less important than their own. It was a moment of awakening for Phillips, who often said the experience changed his entire philosophy of life – it gave him dreams and ambitions. Phillips went on to become the U.S. Navy's first African-American sonar technician and an activist in the Civil Rights movement, marching alongside Dr. Martin Luther King. He also stayed in touch with the people of St. Lawrence, where a playground has been built in his honour. In May 2008, Memorial University of Newfoundland gave Phillips an Honorary Doctor of Law Degree for his resistance to and capacity to rise above repression. A haunting and hopeful tale of two cultures, Oil and Water is a compelling true story of rescue, rebirth, and salvation.

Oil and Water premiered in 2011 to a sold-out crowd at the historic LSPU Hall (so named as it was formerly owned by the Longshoremen's Protective Union) in the heart of downtown St. John's, Newfoundland. Since then the play was remounted in 2012 at Factory Theatre in Toronto and has been performed at professional theatres across Canada.

Cast: 4 women, 6 men

What people say:

"Oil and Water is devastating, fascinating, inspiring, unforgettable…." — The Chronicle Herald

"Oil and Water is a show that will make you angry, cry, laugh and feel a little more hopeful about the world and humanity than before you walked into the theatre; the kind of theatre every Canadian needs to experience." — The London Free Press

"Robert Chafe's play is poetic, lyrical, and careful in developing the various stories so that when they mesh, the juxtaposition is transformative." — The Slotkin Letter

"Magic in the theatre is rare to witness and hard to describe, but that indeed is what's happening [with] Oil and Water. ... You will be transformed by this story which manages to combine the familiar with the unexpected, the simple with the complex and the carefully structured with the seemingly spontaneous." — The Toronto Star

About the Playwright:

Robert Chafe is a Canadian playwright and actor who has worked in theatre, dance, opera, radio, fiction and film. His stage plays have been seen in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and in the United States. He has been shortlisted twice for the Governor General's Literary Award for Drama and he won the award for Afterimage in 2010. He has been guest instructor at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, and The National Theatre School of Canada. In 2018 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Memorial University of Newfoundland. He is currently Playwright in Residence and director of Artistic Fraud Theater in St. John's, Newfoundland.

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