What Katrina wrought on New Orleans: YCP theatre to bring that catastrophe back to life in ‘Because They Have No Words’

By Oliver Karasu Gray

YORK College of Pennsylvania’s Theatre Department has a unique production lined up for later this week.

This semester, students will get to see a performance of “Because They Have No Words,” which is based on the true story of Tim Maddock and his account of volunteering with animal rescue after Hurricane Katrina and how it affected New Orleans. For those who have forgotten, Katrina was a Category 5 Atlantic hurricane that caused over 1,800 fatalities and $125 billion in damage in late August 2005.

Acel Spencer, a junior Theatre major, is cast to play Maddock in this production. To give insight into the production, he was able to provide background on the actual history of Katrina itself. 

“All the destruction and all the photos that you see, it actually wasn’t caused by the hurricane itself,” he began.  “It was caused because New Orleans is below sea level, so they have levies down there. When the hurricane came in and the water just started rising and rising, the levies broke, and it essentially just drowned the entire city.

“So, when you see the photos of the aftermath, you just see campers on top of houses, boats just everywhere. That’s what actually caused all the damage. It displaced so many people.   

“Most of them black, because they were [living in] the poor neighborhoods and the government didn’t know what to do. They were fumbling everything. It took so long to actually formulate a plan. Thankfully, that’s been fixed.” 

Says actor Acel Spencer of the show, ‘It’s going to be a lot more intimate, because the show itself, it helps you connect with not only the actors on stage but there are some moments in there where we break the fourth wall and talk to the people in the audience.’ (Photo by Oliver Karasu Grey)

Spencer then went on to explain what the hopes of the theatre are in terms of this performance and what viewers should be expecting. 

“I will say that there is a content warning: We do talk about dead animals, about seeing them and how it affected Tim himself when he was down there,” he said. (There also will be strobing lights for a portion of the show; viewer discretion is advised.)

“But the way we’re doing it, we’re doing it in the Perko Blackbox Theatre, so that’s a three-quarter thrust. It’s going to be a lot more intimate, because the show itself, it helps you connect with not only the actors on stage but there are some moments in there where we break the fourth wall and talk to the people in the audience. 

“That way, our hope is that the lines that we say can give them,” he said, “a flashback to what it was like down in New Orleans, but also, we hope that it will help them realize that, ‘Wow. This is one person’s account of how it went down. I can’t even imagine what everyone else was feeling like.‘” 

“Because They Have No Words” is a production by Maddock and Lotti Pharriss Knowles and is directed by YCP Associate Professor of Theatre Suzanne Delle. The performance will be held in the Perko Blackbox in the WPAC Theatre. 

Director Suzanne Delle and lead actor Acel Spencer in the Perko Blackbox Theatre. (Photo by Oliver Grey)

Showtimes are October 20-22, all at 7:00 p.m.

For additional information, contact the box office at (717) 600-3868 or go to the website at www.ycp.edu/theatre  

Oliver Karasu Grey is a freshman at York College and is majoring in Professional Writing. 

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