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A Working Cell: Q&A with Mark Durstewitz

A biology major-turned-acclaimed writer/composer/musician, Mark Durstewitz knows the power of a story told well. He and his wife, Christine Hull – also a writer/musician and his partner at Mad Elf Productions–this weekend debut work on their latest Rock Opera, Water, Inc. The Musical!, at the Warehouse Performing Arts Center.
Mark and Christine moved to Cornelius about a year ago from the New York area. While up north they wrote, produced and performed the critically-acclaimed Children of Children, a rock opera about divorce that saw a limited Off-Broadway run at Bleecker Street Theater and was nominated for Album of the Year.
In advance of the Warehouse preview, we talked with Mark about Water, Inc., the power of good storytelling and why a rock opera is the best way to tell this story, at this time, in this place.

You’ve said that through this work, you hope to start a conversation about climate change - What do you hope that conversation will include?


We are – especially in this country – way behind the curve. We’re one of the world’s biggest emitters. And we cannot count on our leaders to do anything. So if we can create enough of a conversation that people can force their leaders to act, that would be a beautiful thing.
The other thing that we would love to do is to take this thing through colleges, and bring environmental groups in with us, get kids involved with the production, and have the environmental groups help them get organized in defense of their future. If we can do that, if we can succeed with that part of the project, then what we leave behind is a working cell. And that working cell can address local cleanup issues, legislation on the local level, and make sure candidates get in who are sensitive to the idea of climate change rather than openly hostile to it.

Talk about your choice of the rock opera format as a way to incite those conversations – What does the genre do for the subject?

There’s tremendous power in a story that’s well-told. Our culture is replete with ideas like this that come from stories – from the Greek classics, to the Bible – a story has tremendous power, and a story can change things.
Tommy came out when I was a kid. Jesus Christ Superstar came out when I was a kid. And later, Pink Floyd released The Wall. I saw Godspell… I was always fascinated by the impact theatre could have on people. I saw Man of La Mancha at one point and I was a wreck at the end, and I thought, oh man, if we could do this…

These first performances are preview performances – What does that mean exactly? How do they fit into the development of the show?


This is 45 minutes of a 2 ½ hour show. And it kicks off a year of fundraising and promotion for the tour.
If we get the budget we’re looking for, we’ll probably play 15 shows in Charlotte and get people in to see that, film it, and then take a step back and see what works and what doesn’t work.
Doing projects like these, you’re going to fall flat on your face at some point, and we just want to get as much feedback on the thing as possible.
The process is absolutely fascinating! You have to have a real comfort level with ambiguity in this business.
MORE INFORMATION ​
Admission: $10 - buy tickets here
​PERFORMANCE DATES:
Thursday, July 26, 8 p.m.
Saturday, July 28, 8 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 3, 8 p.m.

About the Show:
SHE owns the farms on top of the last clean freshwater aquifer. HE owns the company that wants the water. Together they share a terrible secret. After all attempts at containment are exhausted, Demi and her husband, Will, flee the fires out west to the farm where Demi grew up. They are welcomed by Sophia, her mother, who is protecting the coop of local farms from the company that wants access to the last clean freshwater aquifer beneath them. Demi and Will are unaware of Sophia’s connection to Geier, the owner of the company, and a tangle of relationships unravel as their terrible secret is revealed and civil war ensues.
CAST:
David Brian Clark - Will / AnnaJane Jane - Kara, Electra and Demi
Michael Francis Stromar - Geier, Albert / Christine Hull - Sophia

We talked with Mark Durstewitz about Water, Inc. The Musical!, the power of good storytelling and why a rock opera is the best way to tell this story, at this time, in this place.

Christina Ritchie Rogers
Christina Ritchie Rogers
Christina is a local multimedia content producer and digital strategist. Formerly the editor of CorneliusNews.net, she is thrilled to work with the OTC team to once again help tell the ever-evolving Cornelius story. She lives nearby with her husband, Nate, and a small menagerie of 2- and 4-legged beasties.

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