the ripple, the wave that carried me home
Like diving into a pool of water, suspending you with bright humor and healing depth.
Like diving into a glorious pool of water, this play suspends you with its bright humor and healing depth.
When Janice is pressed to return to her hometown and speak at a ceremony honoring her father, she has to reconcile with the childhood she’s tried to distance herself from and forget — one defined by her parents’ political activism and fight for the integration of their local swimming pools. Drawing on history that spans from 1930s segregation to the Rodney King trial and beyond, this deeply moving story explores the joys and challenges of forgiveness, justice, and the weight of one’s family legacy. Written by Tony Award-nominated playwright Christina Anderson, this gorgeous play was just selected as the winner of the coveted Horton Foote Prize!
“Anderson is a gifted playwright you want to pay attention to. She has the voice of a poet.” –Variety
the ripple, the wave that carried me home Plot Summary
Please note, this synopsis contains spoilers.
In 1992, Janice receives a phone call from a woman called Young Chipper Ambitious Black Woman, who is representing the African-American Recognition Committee in Janice’s hometown of Beacon, Kansas. The Committee is renaming a public indoor pool facility after Janice’s late father, Edwin, and are asking if she will attend the ceremony and speak on behalf of her family. While Janice is actively avoiding answering Young Chipper’s calls, her request sends Janice down memory lane and we flashback throughout her childhood in Beacon.
Janices’ parents, Edwin and Helen Collen, met as young people in Beacon in the 1940s. Unbeknownst to him at the time, Edwin had learned to swim from Helen’s father, who founded the first swimming program for black children at Brookside Pool. During this time, Beacon’s three pools were, and remained, segregated for many years. In 1956, three boys, two Black and one White, drowned in a lake on the edge of town because there wasn’t a pool where they could swim together. These boys became known as the Beacon Three, and Edwin and Helen used this tragedy to fuel the fight towards desegregating Beacon’s pools. Although they are successful in their fight, this leads to the privatization of the local white pools, and the eventual closure of Brookside pool due to violent backlash from white pool members. At eight years old, the same age as the boys who drowned, Janice is persuaded by her father to join him in speaking at the annual Beacon Three memorial service, which she continues to do until she is 15 years old.
As Janice continues to reflect on her childhood and consider if she will attend the naming ceremony, she calls her Aunt Gayle for advice. The two women talk about the ongoing Rodney King trial, Young Chipper’s persistent calls, and why the pool won’t be named in both Helen and Edwin’s name. While Janice confides in her Aunt that the naming ceremony brings up a lot of memories for her, Gayle urges her to face the memories and not run from them. Janice then dives into a deep memory of her and her mother on their weekly 45-minute trip outside of town to swim at a privately owned white facility before operating hours with the help of a facilities manager. In 1973, during one of these visits, Janice and Helen are told they can no longer use the swimming pool, and on the drive home are pulled over by the police. During this encounter, Helen is asked to step out of the car and an unnamed assault occurs. The Collen family silently vows not to speak of the incident, and a distance grows between Janice and her parents.
Soon, Janice’s gregarious Aunt Gayle comes into town with her new husband. The couple have bought a farm in Tennessee and Janice begins to develop a new love and interest in land, and a disdain for water. Two years go by and Janice has stopped swimming altogether. Edwin, who has been repeatedly denied membership to the public pool clubs, hires a lawyer to represent him in a discrimination lawsuit. As Janices’ disinterest in water grows, she asks her Aunt Gayle if she can visit her farm, and Gayle agrees. After receiving push back from her parents when she expresses her interest in working on the farm, Janice snaps and tells her parents that their fight is futile. Outraged at his daughter’s defiance and disrespect, he hits her, leaving a bruise on her face. Another call from Young Chipper interrupts this memory, and after a revealing and vulnerable conversation between the two, Janice decides to attend the naming ceremony.
After their call Janice delves back into a memory of her summer in Tennessee with her Aunt Gayle. Meanwhile back in Beacon, it becomes apparent that Edwin is going to lose his lawsuit, but Helen devises a plan to lease the closed Brookside pool from the city, and they gain enough support to successfully reopen it.
As Janice prepares for her trip to Beacon for the naming ceremony, she stumbles upon a box of letters that her mother sent her during her father’s trial. Janice reads them and realizes how critical Helen’s presence was during her parent’s fight, and questions how she didn’t see these sacrifices when she was a teen. She arrives in Beacon the day the Rodney King trial verdict is announced and Janice, her mother, and Aunt Gayle watch the L.A. Riots unfold. The next day, she speaks at the naming ceremony, dedicating space to recognize her mother’s contributions to their community. The next morning, she joins Gayle and Helen at their water aerobics class at the Edwin P. Collen Jr. pool, swimming for the first time in nearly twenty years, accepting the joy, weight, and legacy of her family’s relationship with water.
The director of the ripple, the wave that carried me home discusses the complicated history of Black people's relationship to water, and the way the play "offers a powerful return to the water and takes us on the incredibly personal journey of finding strength, freedom, and joy through forgiveness."
Since the first public pool was opened in Boston in 1868, there have been strict regulations on who can and cannot share the water.
The history of swimming pool segregation in America is long and complicated. This feature highlights the major events between 1800 and 2022.
Learn more about the development of the state of Kansas and the origin of Beacon, Kansas.
Learn about who Rodney King is and the impact this incident sparked in 1991.
Police violence in America can be traced all the way back to the 1700s. Read more to learn about the progression and changes between the early 1700s and now.
Calling all readers! Multnomah County Library put together a reading list inspired by our production of the ripple, the wave that carried me home.
the ripple, the wave that carried me home Written by Christina Anderson
Don Kenneth Mason*
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
Daniel J. Bryant
Associate Video Designer
Kristen Mun-Van Noy*
Amanda Vander Hyde*
Assistant Stage Manager & Intimacy Coordinator
Dance & Movement Captain
Chip Miller & RaChelle Schmidt
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
Alexandria Hunter (She/Her)
Automation Operator & Deck Crew
Wardrobe Swing Dresser
Roy Joshua Antonio (He/Him), Bennet Berkower, Sophina Flores (She/Her), Abby Jacquin (She/They), Matthew Jones, Steph Landtiser, Dug Martell (He/Him), Oliver Pemberton, Myke Rodriguez (They/Them), Laurel Jane Vonderau, Connor Ward
Don is humbled to return to Portland Center Stage in Christina Anderson's the ripple, the wave that carried me home. Other PCS credits: Dreamgirls (2014); Oklahoma! (2011). This play has been a return home in many ways, and Don is honored to be part of this journey. Proud member of Actors' Equity Association since 2011. For Maureen and Philip. I'm home.
Chavez is making her return to Portland Center Stage, where she was last seen as Alberta “Pearl” Johnson in Black Pearl Sings! Recent credits include ABCD (Barrington Stage Company) and In the Upper Room (DCPA). Off-Broadway: Cullud Wattah (The Public Theater), Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (The Duke 42nd). Regional: The Winter’s Tale, Comedy of Errors (Santa Cruz Shakespeare); Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (The Arden Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, The Goodman Theatre); My Fair Lady (OSF); Yellowman (Virginia Stage Co.); Daughters of the Mock (Congo Square Theatre); George C. Wolf’s Spunk! (Penobscot Theatre); The Winter’s Tale (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre); A Streetcar Named Desire (Barrington Stage Company); Virginia State Theatre, Looking Glass Theatre, Bailiwick Repertory Theatre, Black Ensemble Theatre, Piven Theatre Workshop. Black Theatre Alliance Award for Best Lead in Drama (Congo Square Theatre), Drammy Award for Best Lead (Portland Center Stage), CTG Henry Award nomination, Best Actor in an Ensemble nomination. Film/TV: Barbershop II, Death of a President (Toronto International Film Festival Award), Sleepwalk with Me, April Fools, Tapioca, Southern Cross (Cannes Film Festival Award), Prison Break.
Lauren is a multidisciplinary artist from Portland, Oregon. She graduated with a degree in theater from Southern Methodist University in 2019, with awards for excellence in performance and playwriting. Since then, you may have seen her in Bella: An American Tall Tale at Portland Playhouse, or in the first two installments of the Queen’s Girl in Africa trilogy at Clackamas Repertory Theatre, for which she won a Drammy for Best Solo Performance. Lauren recently released two new singles, titled “Nighttime Friends” and “Give Yourself Grace,” and began working on a full-length album with the local label People Music. You may have seen her performing under her musical stage name, Lo Steele, at the Waterfront Blues Festival and the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival. Lauren is honored to be joining PCS for the second time this season, after playing Susan in a very joyful run of tick, tick … BOOM! Check her out on social media to keep up with her music and upcoming performances. @losteele
Andrea is a two-time Drammy Award-winner for Best Supporting Actor, as well as a director and theater educator. She has been seen in many of Portland’s stage productions, including Portland Playhouse’s Barbecue as Lilly Ann, Gem of the Ocean as Black Mary, and Radio Golf as Mame; Artist Repertory’s Nickel and Dimed and Two Sisters and a Piano as Sophia; Portland Actors Ensemble’s Pericles Wet as Dyonisis; and Profile Theater’s American Daughter as Judith and Susan in The Secretaries. Andrea is currently an instructor at the Actors Conservatory, in their Conservatory program.
Christina is a playwright, TV writer, educator, and creative. Her plays have appeared at Goodman Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Public Theater, Yale Repertory Theatre, KCRep, and other theaters in the United States and Canada. Awards and honors include a 2020 United States Artists Fellowship, MacDowell Fellowship, Lilly Awards’ Harper Lee Prize, Herb Alpert Award nomination, Barrymore nomination, and a New Dramatists Residency. Her work has appeared multiple times on the annual Kilroys’ List, an industry survey of excellent new works by female, trans, and non-binary playwrights. She is also the winner of the Lucille Lortel Fellowship. Christina’s plays include: How to Catch Creation; the ripple, the wave that carried me home; Man in Love; pen/man/ship; The Ashes Under Gait City; and Blacktop Sky. She taught playwriting at Wesleyan University, Rutgers University, SUNY Purchase College, and served as the interim head of playwriting at Brown University. Christina recently worked as a television staff writer on Edie Falco’s CBS drama Tommy. She’s currently producing an EP of instrumental hip hop music and working on her first TV pilot, The Only Isaac. christinaandersonwriter.com
Daniel is beyond excited to be directing at Portland Center Stage and Artists Repertory Theatre for the first time. Most recent directing credits include the world premiere production of ABCD at Barrington Stage Company, What To Send Up When It Goes Down (Congo Square Theatre), How to Catch Creation (Geva Theater), and Feeding Beatrice (St. Louis Rep). Previously serving as associate producer/director of community programs at Baltimore Center Stage under the leadership of artistic directors Kwame Kweih-Armah and Hana Sharif, Daniel designed BCS's Mobile Unit program, producing and directing Antigone, Twelfth Night, and Endgame, as well as directing A Wonder In My Soul for the main stage. Daniel is also an ensemble member and former artistic director of Congo Square Theatre in Chicago, where he directed/produced What I Learned in Paris, Brothers of the Dust (2012 ATCA New Play Award, BAA for Best Play), The Fall of Heaven, and King Hedly II (BTAA for Best Ensemble, Best Director). Daniel is a member of SDC, SAG-AFTRA, and AEA.
Brittany is a Brooklyn-based scenic designer for live performance. Recent NYC work includes Fucking A (Fordham); Cardboard Piano (The Juilliard School); Octet (Berkeley Rep Theatre), Rinse, Repeat (Signature Theatre); Life Sucks (Theatre Row), Bill Irwin’s Harlequin & Pantalone (NY City Center), Happy Birthday Wanda June (The Duke), I thought I would die but I didn’t (The Tank), Sehnsucht (JACK). Regional work includes Redwood (Portland Center Stage); Welcome to Fear City (KCRep); August: Osage County (Resident Ensemble Players, University of Delaware); My Name is Asher Lev (Portland Stage Company); Richard III (Shakespeare Theatre of NJ). Recent Associate Design: Chicken and Biscuits (Broadway, Circle in the Square); The Green (Lincoln Center public art installation); The Lifespan of a Fact (Broadway, Studio 54); Fairview (Soho Rep). Drama Desk nomination for set design of Octet. M.F.A., NYU. USA 829. brittanyvasta.com
Portland Center Stage: Gem of the Ocean, School Girls, Or; The African Mean Girls Play at PCS. Artist Repertory Theatre: The Children Indecent, Skeleton Crew, An Octoroon, It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, We are Proud to Present. Portland Playhouse: Chicken & Biscuits, Bella, Barbecue, Pipeline, Crowns, The Wolves, How I Learned What I Learned. Portland Opera: Beatrice, Central Park Five. Passin Art Theater: A Song for Coretta, Neat, Two Trains Running, Black Nativity, The Gospel of Loving Kindness, Smoldering Fires. Oregon Children's Theater: Last Stop on Market Street, The Journal of Ben Uchida, In this Corner, Cassius Clay. Vanport Mosaic: Panther, Martha Bakes, Soul'd, Simmer Squash, Left Hook.
Professional credits include: Public Theatre (NYC), Steppenwolf Theatre (Chicago, IL), Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Ashland), Guthrie Theatre (Minneapolis, MN), McCarter Theatre Center (Princeton, NJ), Long Wharf Theatre (New Haven, CT), Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (MO), Seattle Repertory Theatre and Intiman Theatre (WA), Arena Stage and Fords Theatre (Washington, D.C.), Baltimore Center Stage (MD), California Shakespeare Theatre (Orinda), Cincinatti Playhouse (OH), Indiana Rep (Indianapolis), Arden Theatre (Philadelphia, PA), Playmakers Rep (Chapel Hill, NC), Westport Country Playhouse (CT), Asolo Rep (FA), Florida Studio Theatre (Sarasota), George Street Playhouse (New Brunswick, NJ), Syracuse Stage (NY), Two River Theatre Company (Red Bank, NJ), Olney Theatre Center (MD), Arizona Theatre Company (Phoenix), Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, Triad Stage (Greensboro and Winston Salem, NC), Charlotte Childrens Theatre (NC), Crossroads Theatre (New Brunswick, NJ). Xavier is a graduate of New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, M.F.A. in design, stage and film, and is an adjunct professor at Florida A&M University, his alma mater.
Evan is a multidisciplinary artist hailing from Chicago, Illinois. He started at PCS as the associate sound and video supervisor in July of 2018, earning his first PCS design credit on Crazy Enough in 2019. Between 2018 and 2020, Evan has held it down as the mix engineer for The Color Purple, Crazy Enough, Sense & Sensibility, In the Heights, and the 2020 production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Returning in August 2021 as the sound and video supervisor, he has spent much of his time as a system engineer and an advocate for the treatment and working conditions of his fellow technicians and collaborators. When time allows, he has been known to play the bass, restore classic motorcycles, outfit trucks for forest road shenanigans, and build trailers for extended overland travel. Evan would like to thank his S&V team and his partners for their endless support and for patiently listening to his 2 a.m. work-related brain dumps.
Justin is a Drama Desk-nominated singer, songwriter, and sound artist. He’s worked with notable artists such as Abigail DeVille, Kaneza Schaal, Meshell Ndegeocello, Hilton Als, Bill T. Jones, Steffani Jemison, Jon As Policewoman, Toshi Reagon, and George Clinton. His work has been featured at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, The Public, Baryshnikov Art Center, the steirischer herbst festival (Graz, AT), and in exhibitions and permanent collections at The Albertinum Museum (Dresden, DE), CCa Berlin, The Zimmerlii Museum at Rutgers, and Oakland Museum. Justin was a member of Kara Walker’s 6-8 Months Space and holds a culinary diploma from ICE in New York City.
David is a projection designer and filmmaker focused on the union between the cinematic and theatrical. Recent productions include Everest at Dallas Opera, Elektra at Minnesota Opera, Zoot Suit at The Mark Taper Forum, Singin’ in the Rain with McCoy Rigby, Sense and Sensibility at South Coast Repertory, and La Belle et la Bête at SFJAZZ. Other credits include Opera Parallèle's Dead Man Walking, Champion, and Heart of Darkness; Minnesota Opera’s Das Rheingold and Flight, and musicals aboard Princess Cruises’ flagship Royal-class vessels, along with productions with Opéra de Montréal, San Jose Repertory, South Coast Repertory, Sun Valley Summer Symphony, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Atlanta Opera, Arizona Opera, LA Opera, Presidio Theatre, Skylight Theatre, and Riyadh Season. David also teaches projection design at the University of California, Irvine. davidmurakami.co
Sam is an LA-based animator and video artist whose work spans from film to theatrical projection. Recently his work was featured in Rubicon Theatre’s Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 and East West Players’ Assassins. Sam has also worked with a variety of other shows and companies, including on Princess Cruises; 5-SK1-E-5, Minnesota Opera’s Elektra and Lucia Di Lammermoor, Dallas Opera’s graphic novel opera Everest, Opera Parallèle’s Trouble in Tahiti, and more. Sam's recent work in film includes heading VFX for the comedy series How to Hack Birth Control, and he previously assistant edited on the Emmy- and Peabody-nominated documentary film Survivors. He also builds tiny machines out of cardboard when there's time for that sort of thing.
Akela is a multidisciplinary artist working in Portland, Oregon. Training since the age of 14, dance is the craft in which she feels most at home. Movement is her method of connecting with spirit, as well as her ritual for archiving the comings and goings of everyday life. A graduate of Jefferson High School, she is incredibly grateful to the teachers who invested their time and attention into her practice. Akela is the creator of BASS, an artists showcase focused on uplifting black performers of all mediums. She works to inspire younger generations of blackness through her production work and intends to create for the studio, stage, and screen for the rest of her life.
Kristen was born and raised on the island of Oahu and has worked as a stage manager in the Portland theater community for the past 11 years. She graduated with a B.F.A. from Southern Oregon University and is proud to return to Portland Center Stage for her 10th season. When she is not stage managing, she works as a fight choreographer and teacher. She has been recognized for her fight choreography four times by the Portland Drammys and is a proud AEA stage manager.
A graduate of Western Oregon University with a B.F.A in technical production, Amanda Anderson (Vander Hyde) is a freelance stage manager in the Portland theater scene. She works as a production and stage manager for the likes of Oregon Children's Theatre, CoHo Productions, and Artists' Repertory Theatre. This is her second season on the stage management team at Portland Center Stage, having previously been involved with The Great Leap and Rent in the 2021-2022 season. Along with stage managing, she is an intimacy coordinator in the Portland area, having worked on various pieces, including Heathers: The Musical at Linfield University and on various productions at PCS. She wants to thank her partner for putting up with her late hours and constant busyness.
Kamilah is a playwright, dramaturg, and educator originally from North Carolina. She holds a B.F.A. in theater education from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and was an NC teaching fellow. Kamilah has spent several seasons at celebrated regional theaters across the country, including Triad Stage in Greensboro, NC, Asolo Repertory Theater in Sarasota, FL, and Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ. Her play Nick & The Prizefighter was a semifinalist in the 2021 Bay Area Playwright’s Festival and won the 2021 Urbanite Theater Modern Works Festival.
Melory is a first-generation Iranian-American theater artist raised in Hillsboro, Oregon. Melory is the artistic and producing associate at Artists Repertory Theatre and Huntington Playwriting Fellows’ co-facilitator at the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston, Massachusetts. Selected directing credits: English (SpeakEasy Stage Co); The God Cluster (Fuse Theatre Ensemble); The Music Man (assistant director, Third Rail Repertory Theatre), Shahmaran (Shaking the Tree Theatre). Selected dramaturgy credits: <<when we write with ashes>> (National Queer Theatre); Layalina (NQT); Our Utopia (Bag&Baggage Productions). Melory’s writing can be found in the Methuen Drama Book of Trans Plays and Routledge’s Troubling Traditions: Canonicity, Theatre, and Performance in the US.
"Dive into the ripple, the wave that carried me home, and leave a better human being" –PDXParent
"This play itself is beautiful - the way the story is woven together, the language that borders on poetry flowing over you like water - it's often heartbreaking, but also heart-filling." –BroadwayWorld
"As charmingly warm, personable and down-to-earth as it is politically incisive, poetically eloquent and emotionally grand, the ripple… serves up Black joy that’s been earned through generations of effort in the world and reflection in private places." –Oregon ArtsWatch
"A superb play. One I am glad I saw, not just for the action on stage, but for the jolt it gave me when I realized that we haven't moved as far--or as quickly--as I thought we had. The whole country might benefit from that jolt." –The Crippled Critic
In the News
"PCS and ART are tackling the second-ever production of Tony-nominated playwright Christina Anderson’s the ripple, the wave that carried me home." –Portland Monthly
"I knew I wanted to write about water as an element, but I didn’t know what I wanted to write about specifically. Then I was researching environmental injustice and I found Contested Waters, and I was completely floored. I can’t swim, my mother can’t swim, a lot of people in my family can’t swim, and it never occurred to me that a public policy could determine my access to water. That forced denial can turn things and make people believe that they’re only for white folks, so as a kid I never felt like it was a thing I was missing." –Christina Anderson in an interview with American Theatre. View the Feature
"A poignant, transporting, and quietly subversive story of racial justice, political legacy, and family forgiveness." –TheaterMania
“Powerful … brings every period to life with vivid immediacy … Anderson’s enthralling language is peppered with brilliantly evocative turns of phrase.” –Bay Area News Group
"ripple seeks to enumerate racism’s tolls and reclaim joy. ... It elevates the everyday to poetry. ... In its final glorious poolside scene, ripple lets [Janice] come out of the fortress she’s built and rediscover the joys of the water." –San Francisco Chronicle
“Christina Anderson has written a touchingly humorous and passionate play that explores racial justice, family dynamics, and the importance of forgiveness. She has captured the essence of decades of a family’s search for racial justice using only her sparkling talent, elegant direction, four excellent actors, and a creative stage set.” –Berkeleyside
“Anderson’s brilliant writing shows evidence of a careful hand … expertly telling a story of political and familial turmoil … every vignette of a memory passed is immaculate. The work is deeply empathetic, nuanced and above all, honest.” –The Daily Californian
“In her moving new drama … playwright Christina Anderson gives us what we want — or, more accurately, what we need. A generous and empathetic writer, Anderson allows for triumph amid the tragedy and for growth and understanding amid hostilities and resentments … she even leaves us swimming in the possibility of joy.” –Chad Jones’ Theater Dogs
Portland Center Stage is committed to identifying & interrupting instances of racism & all forms of oppression, through the principles of inclusion, diversity, equity, & accessibility (IDEA).