On the "Dryside"

DrysideThey hardly knew each other before teaming up. Now Aislinn Brophy ‘17 and Eden Girma ‘18 are collaborators on a show with a powerful message about connecting.

By Isa Flores-Jones '19

Growing up in Miami, Aislinn Brophy ‘17 was always close to the water’s edge. The decision to write her senior thesis about climate change, however, came late in the process. 

“There are two key touchstones I always return to,” says Brophy as she pushes back her red-rimmed glasses. “Work that engages with gender and race.” Brophy and I sit in the Adams House solarium,

"Dryside" cast members L-R: (top) Skylar Bree-Takyi '20, Hannah Lemmons '20; (bottom) Yena Cho '20, Alyn Wallace '19, Madi Deming '18, Camila Ortiz '19, Jennifer Lee '20
waiting for Eden Girma ‘18, Brophy’s collaborator, composer and musical director for the show Dryside, which runs April 22-30 on the Loeb Mainstage. It’s almost 80 degrees, and the glass-peaked solarium is stuffy. But Brophy doesn’t mind. She says the weather feels like home.

Dryside is Brophy’s senior thesis, the second to be produced by the Theater, Dance & Media department. It is also part of the ARTS FIRST festival lineup. The production, she tells me, has been consuming her life these past few weeks. “But,” she says, “in a great way.” There’s a tap at the door; Girma has arrived. The junior, who concentrates in mathematics at the college, is also pursuing a Masters degree in jazz performance at New England Conservatory. Girma composed and recorded all of the music for the production: which, I learn, comprise seventeen songs total. And together with a team of producers, Brophy and Girma have brought Dryside to Loeb.

“The crazy thing is, we barely knew one another beforehand,” Brophy says. “I just asked if they wanted to do that project.”

“And I didn’t even know her!” Girma laughs, “It’s definitely the running bit of this show- my complete lack of knowledge of theater.”

The decision to join the team came after a discussion of the show’s coverage of climate violence. Dryside
"Dryside" creative team L-R: Clarence Chan '20 (stage manager), Sherry Gao '19 (producer), Aislinn Brophy '17 (director/playwright), Julius Wade '20 (assistant director), Eden Girma '18 (music director/composer)
tells the story of two interracial couples, caught in a future Miami where sea-level rise has decimated the city and caused wealthy residents to flee. The protagonists are refugee workers and Miami residents. One of the show’s key tensions arises between the frontline community and the aid workers. The idea for the show came from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; Brophy explains that she wanted to fully demonstrate the impacts of environmental violence.

“People have all the tools to understand environmental racism. If you’re watching the news, if you’ve heard about Flint, you know. Environmental racism is the manifestation of how communities of color systematically have access to a worse environment. That they’re the frontline for these natural disasters. And that they don’t have the resources to recover. They’re just forced to adapt.”

Dryside posterAgainst the background of flood-ridden Miami, however, are the forces of nature themselves. There’s magic realism at work in Dryside: the Ocean and Stars, interrupt the action – Brophy admits that a partial influence was the movie Hercules – to comment on the characters’ follies and suggest alternative paths.

Alternative paths are what both Girma and Brophy want audiences to consider.

When asked about the most important feature of the show, the composer takes a moment to respond: “When you’re living here – at Harvard – your existence is pretty secure. What I find most powerful is making visible what’s happening, not only here, but in places that we don’t confront our everyday lives. And not just making it visible, but providing an environment for actual empathy. That’s what makes theater so powerful. It’s a connection established between the actors and the audience, a connection that’s really palpable.”