Flint, MI—The premiere of “Wrong River,” a story about the Flint Water Crisis told through the imagination of 10-year-old Dayla as she deals with the effects of lead-poisoning, begins Feb. 4 at the Flint Repertory Theatre.

The story features an all-Black cast and is directed by Jeremiah Davison, a Flint native now based in Atlanta, Ga.

“The stage manager, she said, ‘This is the most Flint play that Flint Rep has ever done,’ and I thought that was just so beautiful,” Davison said. “I think it’s beautiful because we get to see the play through the eyes of Dayla.”

Davison said there is a “heightened” effect from telling the water crisis story through a 10-year-old girl’s perspective, but one that he thinks still connects to many Flint residents’ experiences. 

“It’s the language, the rhythm, the feel,” he said. “It feels like, for me, I see my family there in these characters.” 

Davison also said the production’s heightened experience stems from its stage design, done by an all-female design team, a first for the Rep.

“There’s a lot of color schemes,” said Alison Dobbins, the play’s projections designer and Associate Professor of Integrated Performance Media Design at Michigan State University. “So there’s purple, there’s orange…The water is never water-colored…It always has the rust through it, and it always has a little orange tinge.”

Dobbins described the overall stage design as a hyper-choreographed way to establish moments of “magical realism”—the times where Dayla is imagining climbing through pipes or battling with Flint’s water tower.

“It’s really great to play with the lighting designer, the sound designer, and the projections to create that world that kind of envelops Dayla. But she’s also in some ways controlling it in a sort of…dream state.”

When asked what she hopes people will take away from “Wrong River,” Dobbins pointed to the lesson Dayla offers audiences.

“When you come right down to it, Dayla is a fighter. She’s not a victim. She’s not a plot device,” Dobbins said. “She’s not just there so that you can feel sad and go home. … It’s like, okay, she was willing to fight. What are you going to do? And so I’m hoping the audience leaves with that question.”

Davison echoed Dobbins’ take on Dayla, but added his own hope as a Flint native.

“Dayla is a fighter, that is 100 percent correct. But it’s beautiful for everyone to see the fight because everyone in this play—every single person—is fighting for something,” he said. “And that’s what it is and means to be a Flintstone to me. It’s that through all the stuff that we’re dealing with and have dealt with for years we continue to fight … and it’ll ultimately get us to paradise.”

Performances of “Wrong River” begin Feb. 4 and will run through Feb. 20 with both matinee and evening performances. Genesee County Residents receive a 30 percent discount on tickets, which range from $10 to $25, as part of the Genesee County Arts Education and Cultural Enrichment Millage.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....

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