New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here

By The Water: A play about Hurricane Sandy by Sharyn Rothstein

By Gary Wien

originally published: 07/18/2015

By The Water: A play about Hurricane Sandy by Sharyn Rothstein

The images of devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy will never be forgotten by those whose towns were ravaged.  Sharyn Rothstein’s play, By the Water, begins with that image up close and personal.  The audience meets the Murphy family whose Staten Island home has been destroyed and who has to choose between agreeing to the government’s buyout program or ruining the chance for government assistance for their neighbors.  In their town, everybody has to be part of the buyout program or no one will be.

“It’s the story of one family grappling with that decision,” explained Rothstein.  “The Patriarch of the family feels very deeply rooted in the community.  The play is about the questions of what is home? When do you move on? When do you give up on a community? And what do you do to protect yourself and your family as the world is changing and more and more natural disasters seem to be coming upon us.”

Rothstein believes that natural disasters can serve as watershed moments in the life of a family.  It’s a period when a family faces a situation so dire and tragic that it changes everything; it changes the conversation and changes relationships.

Premiere Stages at Kean University is presenting the New Jersey Premiere of By The Water July 16 through August 2nd in Union.  The production is directed by Adam Immerwahr and features the actors Damian Buzzerio, Mike DiSalvo, Billy Finn, Deanna McGovern, Brian O’Neill, Sheila Stasack, and Jo Twiss.

“Premiere is dedicated to producing new plays and New Jersey Premieres that challenge audiences to re-think their place in the world and be engaged in issues that affect the greater community,” explained John J. Wooten, Producing Artistic Director of Premiere Stages.  “Presenting works like By The Water is paramount to honoring that mission. The play is a testament to those local residents who were knocked down by the storm but refused to be beaten by it. With thousands still displaced, it also provides a powerful reminder that work remains to be done to ensure that our neighbors are not forgotten and continue to get the support they need.”

Wooten said that multiple employees at Kean University were directly affected by Sandy, including Millie Gonzalez, who sits on Premiere’s Advisory Board.  In addition, cast member Damian Buzzerio and Premiere Stages artistic intern Rachel Callender both actively volunteered with Sandy relief organizations.

The article continues after this ad


Rothstein was commissioned to write a play, but wasn’t sure what to write when Sandy hit. After the storm, she imagined a play in which the audience and the actors were in a house that had been destroyed.  She then heard about the buyout programs and realized she had found her story.

“I’m always interested in issues of community and social responsibilities,” said Rothstein.  “What do we owe each other? What do we owe our family? Our community? And in order for the buyouts to happen, the entire community has to come on board.  That fascinates me.  It’s such an enormous challenge and inherently dramatic.”

Rothstein went to Staten Island and spoke with many who were directly affected by the storm.  While the play does not detail any one person’s story, the sense of fear that the people carried with them is very present in the work.  “The question of can you return to a place that holds so much fear for you is a big question of the play,” she added.

When By The Water had its world premiere in New York in 2014, many audience members who were affected by the storm felt a sense of closure.  There is something powerful about seeing what you have been through on stage — to know that you and your struggles have not been forgotten.  Many told Rothstein that seeing the play was cathartic for them and allowed them to finally move on.

In conjunction with the play, Premiere Stages has partnered with Kean University Galleries to present Asbury Park artist Laura Petrovich-Cheney’s By the Block, an exhibition of salvaged wood quilts constructed from wooden debris collected after Hurricane Sandy.  The exhibit will remain in the James Howe Gallery, located in Vaughn Eames Hall, until September 14. The exhibition, which is free, will be open to By the Water patrons two hours prior to every performance, and Ms. Petrovich-Cheney will appear as the first guest speaker for Premiere’s 2015 Talk-Back Series, which offers free post-show discussions after select matinee performances, on Sunday, July 19. Additional speakers include Dr. Paul J. Croft, Executive Director of Kean’s School of Environmental & Sustainability Sciences (Sunday, July 26 at 3:00 pm), and Sue Pniewski, who served as New Jersey Coordinator for Portlight Strategies, Inc. in the aftermath of the hurricane (Saturday, August 1).


For more by this author, click here

Holmdel Theatre Company Presents 'ART'
(HOLMDEL, NJ) – The Holmdel Theatre Company (HTC) will present 6 performances of Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’  from December 7th through December 16th. Translated from French by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of what happens when Serge buys an expensive painting, and the reactions of his two closest friends, Marc and Yvan, to his purchase. As what begins as a discussion about the quality of the painting that Serge has purchased quickly devolves into petty jabs and personal attacks, the three men border on destroying their friendships.
Pebble Players Presents "Heathers, the Musical: High School Edition"
(SUMMIT, NJ) -- Celebrating their 10th season, Pebble Players has been entertaining Summit residents and audiences from surrounding towns with sophisticated Off-Broadway quality performances. The 2018 Season opens with "Heathers The Musical: High School Edition," directed by Jayne Myers and choreographed by Jaimie Woodruff.  Performances are Friday, November 16 and Saturday, November 17 at 7:30pm and Sunday, November 18 at 2:00pm. 
NJPAC Presents Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies
(NEWARK, NJ) -- New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) presents Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies from Thursday, March 21, 2019 - Saturday, March 23, 2019. The high-style music of “The Duke” is the heart and soul of this 1981 Tony-winning Broadway hit, directed with dazzle by André De Shields (The Wiz). Mercedes Ellington, granddaughter of Duke Ellington, re-creates the original show’s elegant dancing and tapping as choreographer.
Princeton Chinese Theatre in collaboration with the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater present Teahouse by Lao She
(PRINCETON, NJ) --Princeton Chinese Theatre in collaboration with the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater at Princeton University will present Teahouse by Lao She on November 16, 17 and 18 at 8:00pm and November 17 at 2:00pm in the Donald G. Drapkin Studio at the Lewis Arts complex on the Princeton campus. Teahouse is considered a masterpiece of contemporary Chinese theater, spanning 50 years in modern Chinese history from the collapse of the Qing dynasty and the Republican Revolution to the birth of the People’s Republic, bringing together over sixty characters who represent all walks of life. The production is directed by senior Changshuo Liu.
Axelrod's Rising Stars Youth Performing Arts Program Presents "Peter Pan"
(OCEAN TOWNSHIP, NJ) --  A family musical that’s perfect for the holiday season, “Peter Pan” is flying onto the Axelrod stage December 8-16. Axelrod’s award-winning Rising Stars Youth Performing Arts program presents one of Broadway’s timeless classics in a fully staged production directed by Lisa Goldfarb with musical direction by Randy Hurst and choreography by Wendy Roman.  

Broadway’s Next H!T Musical LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s Friday, October 26, 2018, and the Broadway’s Next H!T Musical cast is just about ready to take the stage at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ.
The Last Apple Pie: "Apples In Winter" Opens At Centenary Stage
Jennifer Fawcett’s new play centers around a mother in a kitchen, doing something countless people across America will take part in over the upcoming holiday season: making an apple pie.
See Andrea McArdle LIVE! in Annie at Deal Park’s Axelrod PAC!
Leapin’ Lizards! Annie’s finally made it to the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal Park, NJ, and it stars Broadway’s original Annie, Andrea McArdle, as Miss Hannigan!
"It's a Blast!" Go See Rock of Ages 10th Anniversary Tour NOW! at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino!
The five-time Tony award-nominated Broadway musical, Rock of Ages, returns to the stage with a 10th Anniversary Tour at Atlantic City’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino! Performed in the venue’s ultra-modern Sound Waves theater, Rock of Ages runs from now until November 4, 2018.
There's One In Every Family: "Charley's Aunt" at The Shakespeare Theatre
On stage now through November 18 at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, “Charley’s Aunt” is described as “part Oscar Wilde, part ‘Fawlty Towers,’ with a dash of South American spice!” This side-splitting British farce from 1892 has drag, mistaken identity, romance and plenty of physical comedy. Join Jesse and Dave at rehearsals in Florham Park to hear from the cast and director what makes this such a hilarious and enduring show.

Event calendar
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018


New Politics @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

THE REPUTATIONS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

TOTO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

ANNIE, The Musical @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 7:30pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 7:30pm

Spring Awakening: The Rock Musical @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm


PARSONS DANCE @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm


Crybaby Matinee: March of the Penguins @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

View all events


For more on our awards, click here

New Jersey Stage © 2018 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 |

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.