Sherri Eden Barber directs Only You Can Prevent Wildfires Conceived by Barber and written by Harrison David Rivers.
In 2002, the Hayman Fire burned 133 homes, 138,114 acres and forced the evacuation of 5, 340 people in Colorado. It is, to date, the largest forest fire in the state’s recorded history. It all started with a love letter.
What inspired you to do this play?
Terry Barton and the Hayman Fire is a sensational and tragic story that has intrigued me for years. In 2002, Terry Barton-Forest Ranger, burned a letter written by her ex-husband and ignited the largest wildfire in Colorado’s history. It’s easy to judge her actions because of the lives that were lost and damage inflicted, but over a decade later, I am interested in a different perspective, the part of the story that hasn’t been portrayed by the media.
Terry burned this letter for a reason, and while it was probably never her intention to cause such a terrible tragedy, the letter that destroyed an entire forest region has become a powerful symbol for the lengths people will go to in trying to erase their pain and express their rage. I’m interested in the attempt to erase one’s past, to let go of the hurt and start over with the cathartic and sometimes destructive act of burning a piece of paper.
How did you get involved in Women Center Stage?
I have been interested in working with Women Center Stage for some time, and was connected this year through a colleague. I’m thrilled to be a part of this experience and just as excited to create as I am to see the vast diversity of work created by my peers.
Your play addresses an environmental issue. What drew you to this subject?
In my mind, the play isn’t as much about an environmental issue as it is about a woman in an environment and how the media took the environment she was from and transformed it into what they wanted it to be.
So many plays and stories are told by men. What do you think prevents women from telling their stories?
Take Sen. Leticia Van de Putte’s words from the abortion filibuster during the State Senate hearing in Texas on June 25 hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” We have to keep making people aware of our presence, continue to build a community and support each other.
If more women could tell their stories, what do you think would change?
If more women told their stories, I believe there would be a shift in the adjectives used to describe women and men. Today an unbalance exists. A woman may be called emotional for the same behavior exhibited by a “passionate” man. Tenderness should not always be considered feminine and strength masculine.
We see so many more plays written by men than by women onstage. Why do you think that is the current state of things?
The material by equally talented women unquestionably exists; the question is why we are seeing less onstage. I think the answer lies in how plays are being produced and who is in the position to produce them.
How do you think the current state of things can continue to change?
I think we need to challenge the institutions, challenge the theatres, challenge the subscribers, challenge an audience and not have the one diverse play a season, the one play by a woman, etc…diversity is not just about gender. I’m interested in what is being said as much as who’s saying it. It’s not just about asking for change, we must provoke it.