On Tuesday afternoon, while many of The Public Theater’s creative team rushed off to the beach to catch a couple hours of fading sun after a creatively taxing day of work at the Vineyard Arts Project, Jack Phillips Moore stayed behind.

“You know, I am not a beach guy, ” he confessed.

Mr. Phillips Moore is a theatre guy, in charge of developing new artists at The Public Theater in New York city. This is his third summer residency at the Vineyard Arts Project in Edgartown, an annual journey that for him is all about creating and honing new work.

“We start to plan in late spring,” he said. “We like to bring one project which has a full team of actors, director, playwright, so they can do some work on the show with basically a full company, and then do a presentation or reading for the folks on the Island.”

The story centers around the Flint, Michigan water crisis and its effect on the residents. — Jeanna Shepard

On Saturday August 24 at 6 p.m. Vineyard Arts Project will host a staged reading of the first act of Cullud Wattah, which follows three generations of African-American women through Flint, Michigan’s water crisis.

In addition to the creative team of Cullud Wattah, The Public Theater brought five actors, a stage manager and three staff members to the Vineyard, including new commissions from Hammaad Chaudry, and Martyna Majok, who won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in drama for her play Cost of Living.

Mr. Phillips Moore said that commissioning a work signals a vote of confidence. “When we commission artists we give them a chunk of money and we say write a play for us. It is usually an artist whose work we really like and admire and we want to make a commitment to. So it’s a way of investing in an artist on a project-by-project basis.”

On Tuesday afternoon, before the beach called, the cast and team behind Cullud Wattah spent the day alternating intensely emotional sound and movement sequences with circle discussions of the script. A timeline of political events papered the studio’s mirrored walls. One message was hard to miss: “It has been 1,944 days since Flint had clean water.”

The cast sat on yoga mats, blocks and blankets with open scripts in front of them. Playwright Erika Dickerson-Despenza and director Candis C. Jones led the group. The partnership between the two began last year during Ms. Dickerson-Despenza’s fellowship at the Lark Theatre.

“I require all my work to be directed by black women, so every roundtable during the fellowship my intention was to invite a different black woman director,” Ms. Dickerson-Despenza said. “Candis was the second director I invited in the lineup, we went to dinner afterwards, and it really went from there. I appreciated her visioning of the play so much.”

Cullud Wattah premiered in March with an abbreviated run at The Public Theater’s studio space in New York. The studio is an intermediary step between workshop and production. A full production of Cullud Wattah will run next July as a part of the 2020 season. Over the next year the scope of the show will both narrow and expand, with help from residencies like the Vineyard Arts Project.

“From the studio show I’m looking at the staging we had as a template for moving forward,” Ms. Jones said after the rehearsal. “Erika has made a lot of edits, and we’ve specified some storytelling in the script. We’re working on bridging the old and the new, and drilling down on the specificity of the storytelling.”

In Cullud Wattah, the storytelling is physical as the play centers around the environment’s effect on human bodies. Movement director Adesola Osakalumi has been with the show from the start.

“Being here and able to participate in workshops and conversations gives me so much, spending time with the actors in this way,” he said. “I like to be able to know the actors and the characters, to make things as specific as I can.”

Mr. Osakalumi is a dancer and choreographer, dancing in the films Across the Universe and Idlewild. He worked as movement director for The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Othello, and had to return to New York early to continue work on another production.

Other members of the Public’s team took advantage of the entire week or two on the Vineyard. On a recent day, company manager Heather Fichthorn and assistant line producer Brayden Simpson sat on Vineyard Arts Project’s porch overlooking an expansive green lawn.

“We sit this far from each other at the office probably, but there’s a wall dividing us and just one tiny window,” said Mr. Simpson. “The natural light here is so amazing.”

Playwright Ms. Dickerson-Despenza agreed.

“When writing about the dead it’s important to be surrounded by the living. . .That makes a hell of a difference with me and plays like this specifically, and the body of work that I’m creating. The sunshine and windows and space and greenery, it’s needed.”

A staged reading of Cullud Wallah will be performed on Saturday, August 24 at 6 p.m. For tickets, visit vineyardarts.org.