The Roslindale Love Canal

by Ashley Rose Salomon

We are honored to be partnering with notable local poet and writer, Ashley Rose Salomon, on workshopping and producing her first play, The Roslindale Love Canal. This new work, inspired by her striking, poignant poem about the Roslindale “Love Canal” which burst in 1996, will explore the deeper, personal narratives that surrounded this tragic, little-known event in Boston’s history. This year marks the 30th anniversary of this barely known tragedy in our city, and to this day, it is nearly impossible to even find information about its existence; the way it is remembered is through the memories of the survivors. AshleyRose has a personal account of this event as a survivor of the flood, and in her workshopping process is eager to reflect on the connections between housing insecurity and inequity, hardships faced by the city’s BIPOC community, and what it looks like to heal from trauma, particularly when one’s experiences from a tragedy are disbelieved. Ashley Rose’s story, told through the eyes of an 11-year old, will explore this little-known chapter in Boston’s recent history and is critical to our own understanding of the ways racial injustice has been perpetuated in our recent past. Understanding this story can act as a driving force for confronting injustice and taking more intentional steps today.

We plan to move this new work through multiple workshop iterations, with both closed and public workshops, and ultimately culminate in a public, full workshop performance of this powerful piece, that will honor the experiences of a group of survivors who are eager for their stories to be truthfully told.

For years, audiences have been captivated and impacted by hearing Ashley Rose’s original poem about an avoidable, tragic event almost no one has heard about, which inspired us at Artists’ Theater to approach Ashley Rose about turning her short piece into a fuller play. What began as a project for Ashely Rose to explore her own experiences on a personal level turned into a piece about the need to confront racial and housing injustice, which has not made nearly enough strides away from marginalization since 1996. We began developing this new work through a short-term partnership in Fall 2019 with Fort Point Theater at the Boston Public Library, and have been eagerly searching for opportunities to support a deeper exploration of the piece ever since. Ashley Rose was able to work on a revision of the piece through an opportunity with Company One’s Playwriting Lab.

Given that the subject of this play is based around an event that is not only ignored but nearly covered up by the city, we all feel it is an important risk and much as it is an imperative opportunity to tell the truth about this tragedy in a compelling, relatable manner, that will ultimately serve as a call of action for audience members. Ashley Rose believes the flood and subsequent trauma she and her neighbors experienced when she was a child bears great significance because it highlights how Boston has treated People of Color with little regard, which unfortunately still rings true today. The play, however, also shows how in the face of tragedy, cross-cultural relationships and community action can create opportunities for justice to prevail.