Saturday, February 26, 2011
Bitter the Fruit
Produced, written, directed, and starring
SUSAN RUSSELL Co-producer
JILL TURNER Assistant director
VALENTINA DE LA FUENTE as Maria
TIM CLARK as Joe Donovan
BECKY JOHNSON as Ellen Graydon
JILL TURNER as Mary Glaznow
A. BLINKEN as Chaz Powell
HUGO ARANA as Jesus Gutierrez
MIKE BIRCH as the Ag Commissioner, Dick Needham
KAREN CHAVEZ as Clarita
BERNARDO SANCHEZ as Jaime
SALVADOR LUA as Jose
NICHOLAS CONSTANT as Sam
WILFRED SARR Scenic Art
LINDSEY GOULD Lighting and Sound
HUGO ARANA Set assembly and Management
CARLOS DE LA FUENTE Music
GEORGIA ANNE SEARS Cover art: "Strawberry Fields Forever"(detail)
Thursday, February 24, 2011
By KATIE HUGHES MCKEE
Found online here.
As I walked into a standing-room-only matinee of "Bitter the Fruit" last Sunday at the Broadway Playhouse, I turned to the house manager and said, "You guys don't need my review. Look at this!" And as I did look, I noticed it was the most ethnically diverse audience I have ever seen at a theatrical production in Santa Cruz.
Author/director Nicholas Constant describes the play as being about "People, Pesticides and Profit," with the subtitle; "Strawberries, the Ugly Truth." It is based on the true story of how a coalition of activists, union organizers and workers campaigned to get the chemical methyl bromide banned.
The afternoon began with UC Santa Cruz graduate Valentina de la Fuerta, an advocate for food justice who also plays Maria in the play, singing the "Weeping Woman" song, her father accompanying her on guitar. He explained that the song expressed the sorrow of postpartum depression. After that, Anna Lopez, professor at De Anza Community College and San Jose State University, gave us statistics regarding the state of farmworkers' health that were so chilling I teared up.
The play opens with student reporter Joe Donovan jogging and coming across Maria, collapsed in a field. She is too ill to go out to pick, and her crew has left her behind. She is undocumented and won't go to a clinic, so Joe gets her to a school. At the school, the nurse is quite busy with the children who have been poisoned by the previous night's leakage of methyl bromide from under the plastic covers of the strawberry fields. Two teachers, played by UCSC theater student Jill Turner as the older, wiser, more resigned of the two, and Becky Johnson of local Community Television, as the young, fiery Berkeley graduate, bemoaning the situation. This is the "Just the facts, ma'am" scene.
Following this is the "Gaia scene," where Maria tells her story and the ecology of the situation is explained. Joe interviews the agriculture commissioner, played by Mike Burch, who is smug and practiced at rattling off answers. There is some well-written sparring between the two in the "Bastards!" scene. At the home of a huge grower, who is about to throw a lavish spread for politicians and the press, Joe interviews Chaz Powell, played by Abe Lincoln yep in the "Patronizing Fat Cat Bigot" scene, who summons his field manager, Jesus, played by Argentinian Hugo Aceves, who delivers the propaganda he has been taught in the "Back on the Plantation" scene, followed by the "What Would Steinbeck Do?" scene.
The acting was somewhat uneven at the start of the play, but by the time the 1-hour, 45-minute ! first act was over, it had settled in. The second act is quite short. This is a benefit for the health needs of farmworkers' children. Bring friends who can afford the full $20!
if you go
'bitter the fruit'
written and directed by: Nicholas Constant
presented by: Performing Arts West and Workers' Theater
when: Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
where: Broadway Playhouse, 526 Broadway, Santa Cruz
cost: $9 to $20 general; $5 to $9 for low-income
Sunday, February 20, 2011
This piece can be found online here.
Saturday, February 19, 8:00 pm & Sunday February 20, 3:00 pm (matinee), Friday, February 25, 8:00 pm & Saturday, February 26, 8:00 pm: Theater Play Tackles Green Issue: Methyl Bromide/Iodide
Current protests against the use of Methyl Iodide on strawberry fields had their origins in a similar battle versus Methyl Bromide in the 90's. A new theater play "Bitter the Fruit" tells the story of two brave women teachers who campaigned to get M.B. removed from fields adjacent to their classrooms. The Class One toxin menaced the health of students.
The play also relates the struggle of strawberry pickers to become a recognized workforce under the U.F.W. (United Farm Workers) banner. One young Latina emerges as a natural leader, gaining the respect of a local 'Anglo' journalist. Gradually admiration turns to affection between the earthy (also fiery) 'campesina' and the cool-minded ecologist. With touching humor and bold conflicts, "Bitter the Fruit" gives an accurate historic picture of a determined local movement that combined environmental and labor activists. To some degree the 'green' campaign did win safety improvements in the application of Methyl Bromide fumigant, and a large section of strawberry pickers did win a union contract.
Former Community TV host Nicholas Whitehead wrote the drama, based on his inside knowledge as a member of the dynamic campaigns. Drawn from interviews done
Mural: "Strawberry Fields" by Kathleen Croscetti
at the time, his characters of Ag. Commissioner and Big Grower get to say their piece in a realistic manner, defending the practice of synthetic chemical agriculture as the only means to feed an expanding world.
The production of "Bitter the Fruit" is a presentation of West Performing Arts done by Workers Theater.
Part of the proceeds help fund the health needs of farmworker children.
General admission $9.00 upwards ; Students and Low Income $5.00 ( at the door, or reserve: 831.234.2067 )
Broadway Playhouse ( Santa Cruz Art League ), Broadway at Ocean St., Santa Cruz. Blogsite: bitterthefruit.blogspot.com
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Wikimedia Commons--found online here in The Atlantic.
In the days before he left office, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration planted a chemical time bomb in California strawberry fields that, if not defused, could cause cancer, thyroid toxicity, permanent neurological damage, and miscarriages, according to 54 distinguished chemists, including five Nobel laureates (PDF).
The chemical in question is called methyl iodide (or iodomethane) and is marketed under the trade name MIDAS by Arysta LifeScience, a Tokyo-based firm that is the world's largest privately held agrichemical company. Methyl iodide is a fumigant that is injected into fields before planting to kill insects, microorganisms, fungi, weed seeds—virtually every living organism.
Claiming that it can also kill the humans who handle it or are unfortunate enough to live in the vicinity of farms (PDF), a group of farm workers and environmental health organizations filed suit late last year to reverse California's Department of Pesticide Regulation's approval of methyl iodide's use.
"We are going to court to challenge the last-minute approval of this cancer-causing pesticide," said Paul Towers, director of Pesticide Watch Education Fund, a public health and environmental organization that is one of the plaintiffs. "The department did this despite the state's own Scientific Review Committee's unanimous warning that it was too toxic to be let out of the laboratory."
The suit claims that the Department of Pesticide Regulation violated the California Environmental Quality Act, Birth Defects Prevention Act, and Pesticide Contamination Prevention Act.
But the plaintiffs are also taking aim at the tactics officials used to get the approval through before the arrival of a new, perhaps less agribusiness-friendly administration. Realizing they hadn't left themselves enough time to fully implement the approval process before Governor Jerry Brown was sworn in, they declared an "emergency." Under the law, registration of pesticides for restricted use can be fast-tracked in California in emergency situations.
"They created their own emergency," said Greg Loarie, an attorney at Earthjustice, a public-interest law firm that is handling the case. "They didn't have to register methyl iodide. They could have waited; they just didn't want to. So our lawsuit claims that the purported emergency is bogus."
Interest in methyl iodide has risen as a result of the phasing-out of methyl bromide, chemical agriculture's fumigant du-jour until it began to be eliminated in the 1990s because of the severe damage it caused to the stratosphere's ozone layer. In terms of human health, however, the changeover represented a leap from the frying pan into the fire.
When the Bush-era Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was considering allowing methyl iodide's use as a pesticide, the 54 chemists mentioned earlier in this post sent the agency a detailed letter that was at times scathing and at others pleading (PDF). "Agents like methyl iodide are extraordinarily well-known cancer hazards in the chemical community," they wrote. "Because of methyl iodide's high volatility and water solubility, broad use of this chemical in agriculture will guarantee substantial releases to air, surface waters, and ground water, and will result in exposures for many people."
MORE ON PESTICIDES:
Sam Fromartz: More on Methyl Bromide
Suzanne Merkelson: Links to ADHD
Barry Estabrook: Propaganda
It's worth noting that when scientists want to create experimental cancer cells in the laboratory they use methyl iodide.
But warnings from members of the scientific community—even Nobel Prize winners—went unheard at the EPA, which cleared the way for methyl iodide's use in the 46 states that don't have their own environmental protection units. Of the four states that do, New York and Washington refused to allow it. Florida and California have given the chemical their blessing.
As part of its approval of the new fumigant, Florida required that Arysta monitor air and groundwater quality near sites where it was applied. The early results showed potentially dangerous levels of the chemical and its byproducts in the air and water.
For the time being, California's decision to approve the chemical is something of a moot point. Fumigants are not typically applied during the winter. Come spring, Loarie is not ruling out using a legal injunction to stop methyl iodide's use until the Department of Pesticide Regulation obeys the law.
Correction: This piece originally included several references to methyl bromide when it should have referred to methyl iodide.