On Sept. 14, 2011, an explosion on a rig in the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota claimed the lives of two workers and took the legs of a third. It was the deadliest accident in the history of the recent Bakken shale boom.
This week, their voices will be heard again in North Dakota on stage.
The latest production by StoryWorks, an experimental project from The Center for Investigative Reporting that produces theater inspired by investigative journalism, tells the stories of the men who were there on that devastating day.
Drawing from the investigative reporting of Reveal’s Jennifer Gollan, “North by Inferno” recounts the events that led to the explosion and details the intricate ways that oil companies shield themselves from liability when an accident occurs. Written by Jon Bernson and directed by Jennifer Welch, the play explores the human cost of America’s energy demand.
On Saturday, CIR will premiere “North by Inferno” at the Edge New Works Festival in Grand Forks, North Dakota. We’ll then travel across the state to Williston, a town at the center of the Bakken oil boom, to perform the play at Williston High School on Tuesday. The cast and CIR staff also will hold a workshop before the play with students in the Williston High drama club, explaining the process behind the StoryWorks production process and working with students to write their own short plays.
The “North by Inferno” tour in North Dakota will culminate with a show in Bismarck on Thursday at The Dakota Stage. The play will make its debut in the Bay Area in November.
This unique tour pairing theater and investigative reporting builds on the efforts of our previous StoryWorks production, “Alicia’s Miracle,” inspired by Reveal’s investigation into the California strawberry industry’s reliance on dangerous pesticides.
After a series of shows at San Francisco’s Tides Theatre in January, CIR took “Alicia’s Miracle” to Oxnard, one of California’s pesticide hot spots featured in the story, where staff members held an in-depth workshop with drama students at Rio Mesa High School and performed the play downtown at Cafe on A. Students at Rio Mesa also performed their own original play alongside “Alicia’s Miracle.”
We’ll post photos and updates from our travels in North Dakota next week, so keep an eye on the #StoryWorks hashtag on Twitter to follow along. If you’re in North Dakota and have questions about the performances, you can email Cole Goins, Reveal’s distribution and engagement manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.