Descriptions of Sessions
Allison Akootchook Warden is an Iñupiaq traditional artist born in Fairbanks, Alaska with close ties to Kaktovik, Alaska. Her most recent work, "Unipkaaġusiksuġuvik (the place of the future/ancient)" debuted at the Anchorage Museum in October 2016. "Unipkaaġusiksuġuvik (the place of the future/ancient)" is a performative installation of an Iñupiaq ceremonial house that exists in the space between the hyper-future and the super-ancient. Warden was physically present in the installation for almost 390 hours over the course of the two month exhibition. She received both a 2015 Rasmuson Fellowship and an Art Matters grant in 2016 to support the work.
In 2015, Warden received an Alaska Governor's Awards for the Arts and Humanities for her work with youth across the state of Alaska. In 2013, she received a Connie Boochever Fellowship in performance art from the Alaska State Council of the Arts and a Rasmuson Individual Artist Award for performance art in 2012. Her one-woman show, "Calling All Polar Bears" debuted at Pangea Theatre with Intermedia Arts in 2011 as part of a National Performance Network (NPN) residency. The show virtually takes the audience to Kaktovik where they meet characters such as a polar bear, a seal and people in the village who explain the complexities surrounding the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It has toured to Berlin, Germany as well as London, England, and the communities of Anchorage and Homer in Alaska. She currently resides in Anchorage and is excited for her upcoming artistic residency for creative writing at the Djerassi Resident Artist program in April of 2017.
Rain and Zoe Save the World by Crystal Skillman - 2018 EMOS Winner
Directed by Ty Hewitt
Two Seattle teenagers embark on an impulsive motorcycle journey to join a group of oil protesters on the east coast. But as they follow a major pipeline across the country, what began as two young activists’ longing to belong to something greater than themselves gives way to Rain and Zoe discovering that the true danger in this world might just be growing up. (Tickets for this performance are only available with full symposium registration or purchased separately here.)
Concrete Roots by Sunlight Collaboration
Katie O'Loughlin, University of Alaska Anchorage alumna
Sunlight Collaboration is excited to present a personal response to an environmental issue affecting the earth, with an emphasis on its affect in Alaska. Through a mixed-media performance, including dance, spoken word, music, and video, we hope to shed light on the negative impact of excessive man-made objects on the earth and those residing in it. Within the creative process, we plan on using personal thoughts and experiences, interviews, and researched realities of how the continued growth of unnatural objects and uncontrolled industrialization is polluting the earth and our state. In example, in order to construct a building, trees are cut down, dirt is dug up, and plants and animals lose a habitat. Even in Alaska, where the majority of land is wilderness, we are still beginning to see the impact of losing our nature to human facilities. One of our goals with this performance is to enlightened the community on the importance of prioritizing the conservation of nature and all of its elements.
Molissa Udevitz, Anchorage artist
This site-specific, outdoor modern dance performance seeks to raise the audience’s awareness of the natural environment that surrounds them and their place in it. By performing in a non-traditional location, I hope to surprise viewers and evoke deep connections between humans and nature, ultimately inspiring feelings of awe and respect towards our earth. Both the natural and built landscape will be my dance partners. The audience will actively participate in the performance by choosing where to best observe the dance, and I invite viewers to join my investigation of the space by guiding them to particularly interesting features or giving them natural objects to examine.
CHOP CHOP: Sounding Fire, Signalling Smoke
Performed by: Bronwyn Preece, University of Huddersfield
Additional creator: Norah Bowman, Okanagan College
The reality of climate change blazed through British Columbia (BC) in the summer of 2017. More than 894,491 hectares of forest fire were experienced province-wide, torching climatic chaos across the headlines of our daily (experiential) news. Fire Statistics became a daily feature: measuring losses of habitat for human and more-than-human, damage to property and decreasing air quality. A state of emergency was declared across BC. It was the worst ever wildfire season on record. During this time, both creators experienced weeks of shrouded skies, limited visibility and health effects from the blanketing of smoke. Both navigated and interpreted the ‘facts’ and ‘data’ through immediate, embodied, viscerally kinetic means. Both sensed the artistic invitations offered by the situation and subsequent aftermath in their ecosystem adjustments.
The summer fire statistics feature as fodder for a musical and movement score that is literally chopped in fallen wood. A performance of projections, wood chopping, poetry and symbolic ash will be based on the data points of the summer.
Performed by: Brenda Varda, Wordspace Los Angeles
An evening of song addressing the astounding behavior of Homo Sapiens on the Planet Earth! A (slightly) extraterrestrial perspective. With a piano, a computer, and a transcom unit, Varda invokes a Lehr-ian madness based on the current behavior of the species. From garbage to fashion, and Wall Street to romance, there's a lot of "highly illogical' human behavior - so why not sing about it?
Oberon Springs by M.G. Erickson - EMOS Second-Place Script
Pregnant with her first child, newly minted doctor Jennifer Maynard returns to her hometown of Oberon Springs, Missouri, to take over her aunt’s medical practice. But nothing has prepared Jennifer for the poverty and environmental caused illnesses, particularly among children, she encounters in Oberon Springs. And nothing could have prepared Jennifer for the hostility the community feels towards her aunt for documenting and exposing the links between area factory farming and human sickness in her book, Estrogen Dominance. Now, after just a few days on the job, Jennifer questions her decision to return. Now she must decide to honor her commitment to her aunt, or do what she thinks best for her child and career. Reading directed by Kaeli Meno.
The Man’s Bitch by Debra Thomas - EMOS Finalist Script
When progressive and popular Shadow Environmental Minister, Abigail Green, becomes Opposition Leader in the bloodthirsty world of Australian politics, it is to save her party from itself. But as environmental catastrophe looms on the horizon in the wake of government corruption, Abigail soon discovers that she must fight to not only lead her country, but to save it from destruction. Inspired by the rise and fall of Australia’s first female Prime Minister, this provocative piece of magical realism is an examination of the way we treat our land – and just what the consequences are when the voices of our Indigenous elders are silenced. Reading directed by Becca Padrick.
The Lovebirds by Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich - EMOS Finalist Script
A scientist tries to save a dying bird species—and ultimately heal the planet—as he fights for his own survival. Charles records sounds in nature to study climate change. One day he hears the unanswered mating call of the last surviving male from a dying bird species. Unlucky at romance himself, Charles identifies with the lonely bird and is determined make a love connection for him. With the help of his unhappy-in-love assistant, Marnie, he captures both the abandoned male and a suitable mate from a different habitat. But for all his good intentions, he soon learns that love connections come easily for neither man nor beast. The Lovebirds examines the hubris of trying to control nature and the consequences of climate change, particularly decreased biodiversity. Ultimately, it draws our attention to the anguish for any species of not being heard. (Inspired by legendary ecologist and nature “sound collector” Bernie Krause and his recording of an abandoned woodpecker.)
The Last Forest by Jordan Crenshaw - EMOS Semi-Finalist and undergraduate student entry
Set in the future, three customer service employees make ends meet by working for an oil company. The same company have discovered a major source of oil in a nearby forest. The three employees discover that forest and realize that being in the forest gives meaning to their lives. After finding out that the forest will be destroyed because of the company, they decide to fight back.
Climate Change Theatre Action 2017 - Play Readings and Reception
Ian Garrett, York University
Chantal Bilodeau, The Arctic Cycle
To celebrate the achievement of Climate Change Theatre 2017, and share some of the work with the EMOS community, we present a reading of a few CCTA plays, followed by a reception. The reading will present a diversity of voices and approaches, and include an action for the audience to participate in, in keeping with the spirit of the project. The reception will immediately follow the reading and serve as the official launch of our CCTA 2017 report and anthology of plays.
Devising Sustainability: creating an adaptable toolkit to be radically, and responsibly, present
Claire K. Redfield, Arizona State University
Neda Y. Movahed, Arizona State University
Nature is the embodiment of celebrating diversity. Our work is rooted in the acknowledgement that we both shape and are shaped by our environments, and that ecological crises are a manifestation of social and cultural disjuncture. We propose a workshop that harmonizes nature-based experience, creative tools, and devising theatre techniques. Using uniqueness as our entry point, we will draw from the group’s diverse ways of knowing and being to devise short pieces around the theme of embodied wisdom. This workshop is part of an ongoing collaboration in creating an adaptable toolkit of activities pushing us to be radically, and responsibly, present. We have been chewing on the following questions:
What can nature teach us about harmonious co-existence? What is the untapped potential lying dormant in our diverse ways of knowing and being?
How does devotion to the practice of self-reflection support large-scale sustainable. transformation?
Can we co-create containers of care that allow us to check-in with one another as we collectively navigate the tides of change?
Our goal is to provide tools that participants can take and re-shape within their own fields of practice. Activities in the workshop will include co-creating collective soundscapes, observation and embodiment of nature, perpetual writing, and theatrical devising techniques. We will conclude with groups devising short pieces based on the workshop experience.
Engaging Audiences in a Climate Lens
Julia Levine, The Arctic Cycle
Jessica Litwak, Artistic Director, the H.E.A.T. Collective
Theatre is a necessary tool to spark dialogue and action around difficult social topics. This workshop will offer pragmatic and theoretical techniques for using theatre to bridge personal connections to climate issues. Drawing upon examples of audience engagement, this workshop session asks: How do artists, through a climate lens, galvanize theatre audiences? How can we, as activist and socially-engaged theatre artists, create experiential communities with our audiences, while empowering them to take action on climate injustices? How can we amplify and propel the resistance against oppressive social and political systems that exacerbate ecological instability?
Workshop participants will introduce themselves through sociometry, a drama therapy/psychodramatic tool that is used in many settings. Often called "cultural mapping,” sociometry facilitates community building, group and individual awareness, and is a wonderful tool for audience engagement that we will put into practice as our warm-up. During the course of this workshop, we will encounter both conventional and experimental modes of audience engagement, through presented examples and hands-on investigations. Using the paradigm of The H.E.A.T. Collective, participants will experiment with these varied types of engagement as healers, educators, activists, and theatre makers. Participants will obtain and strengthen their theatre tools, drama therapy techniques, scholarly theories, and conflict-transformation practices - all geared towards unique forms of audience engagement. There will be also be space to brainstorm impossible-yet-employable ideas for pre-, during, and post-show audience engagement, and for participants to share their own practices and methodologies. Workshop participants will leave with an enhanced toolbox for creative action around climate issues and arts of resistance. Through the process, we will be building an intimate community of concerned, engaged, passionate artists, and everyone will go out into the conference with new connections, new techniques, new ideas, and clearly-defined goals for future practice.
Movement as a tool to deepen our connection with nature
Molissa Udevitz, Anchorage artist
In our daily lives, we may briefly observe elements of the natural world such as a new plant growing, a bird flitting from branch to branch, or trees swaying in the wind. We may take it a step further and wonder or think about how or why these natural phenomena occur or behave the way they do. But how often do we imagine the how it would feel to sprout from the ground like a plant, hop from limb to limb like a bird, or flutter in the breeze like a leaf? In this workshop, participants will be asked to make careful observations of the natural environment and internalize this in their own bodies through movement. We will start with exercises that heighten our senses and experiment with how different settings influence how we naturally move as humans. Participants will then be given verbal prompts designed to help them imagine how it feels to be something in the natural world and how these parts of nature respond to changes in conditions and interact with other natural elements.
This workshop is designed to allow participants to explore and experiment with movement in a supportive environment. We will investigate the movement prompts together, and there are no right or wrong ways to move. By the end, participants will have gained a deeper emotional and kinesthetic perspective on the natural world and acquired tools to conduct nature movement exploration with others, including youth. Be prepared to move around and spend time outside. Experienced and novice movers welcome.
Satire Beyond Parody: Creating Absurd Worlds to Expose Human Frailty (and idiocy…)
Brenda Varda, Wordspace Los Angeles
This workshop empowers writers, performers, and theatre creators to dig into the possibilities of satire to connect with and change theatre goers. From “Much Ado”, through Moliere, up to Wilde and Coward, and cruising through “The Book of Mormon”, smart satire embodied in well-crafted drama, serves to embolden audiences to ask questions and perhaps motivate change.
Parody has become the default artistic comedic representation, often used in media, musical theatre, and stage improvisation to stimulate references that connect with audiences. This mode accesses the viewers past experiences, thereby allowing the joy and cognitive stimulation, but in relying on tropes/memes/extant material, without engaging the creation of a new and unknown universe, it is sometimes easier for audiences to see the commentary on the art form rather than the actual social situation. Deep satire requires an engagement with a new world that allows participants in the event to see the absurdity and to see their own participation: there is an intellectual component, and that combined with the laughter allows a recognition that has possibilities of change.
In this workshop, after an intro on past stories and a generation of satirical stage techniques, the group would explore eco themes reflected through the absurd and uninformed normal practices of human beings. In the second half of the workshop, participants are paired or grouped to create mini-texts (monologues or scenes) that present heightened and relatively original satirical ECO perspectives.
Mei Mei Evans, Alaska Pacific University
Rosanne Pagano, Alaska Pacific University
This workshop offers participants a chance to respond creatively in written or spoken word to human-caused environmental degradation. Because research shows that the topic of climate change, for example, can be overwhelming --causing people to feel indifferent, disinterested or resigned-- this workshop adapts therapeutic writing and other strategies for insight into an individual's goal-setting capacity for incremental, positive change.
The workshop begins with a brief questionnaire to help people identify personal character strengths to draw on as they consider their behaviors and beliefs around anthropogenic damage to the environment. Basics of therapeutic writing are introduced. Most of our time is reserved for writing prompts to consider links between our individual capacity for striving, achieving and influencing our social and physical environments.
Capturing The Ride of YOUR Play on Stage
Crystal Skillman, playwright and winner 2018 EMOS New Play Festival
“You start one action - real action. Your soul. It grows.”— Rain and Zoe Save the World
In Rain and Zoe Save the World, an audience begins a cross country journey alongside Rain and Zoe as they begin a life of activism. They, of course, find out it is much harder than they imagined. Not unlike the world of theater. One of the hardest things for a playwright, no matter what their accomplishments, can be to really conquer structure. How do we tie the cause and effect of our scripts to our own personal voice, and our goal (s) as activists? How do we find that structure within our own lives? And keep it still personal? Join Rain and Zoe author Crystal Skillman who will use Rain and Zoe as a way to teach strong dramaturgical skills in creating your own political plays. Using techniques from TV, geek theater, comic book, and musical theater writing, playwrights will be lead through several creative methods of plotting this own ideas and scripts. Great for the writer interested in diving into the dramatic art of writing, and also the experienced playwright looking to hone their skills and further their craft.
How dominant patterns of land use affect our movement
Gabrielle Barnett, Independent scholar/artist
This workshop will explore how two dominant patterns of land use affect our movement choices, and in turn our perceptions of space, self, and relationship. In North America, particularly the west, communities tend to be laid out as a grid of streets. This choice has relatively recent historic roots, linked to development of a system of meridians, latitude, and longitude to guide global navigation. In Europe, and some parts of the East coast, communities are laid out following an older pattern where travel routes radiate out from a series of central points. This pattern corresponds to a much older system of navigation and a pre-modern system of political organization. After experiencing these different ways of organizing space, participants will consider how this information might inform our staging choices.
Panels and Discussions
Climate Change Theatre Action 2017
Lydia Fort, Emory University
Organized by Chantal Bilodeau and Ian Garrett, Climate Change Theatre Action (CCTA) is a biannual distributed festival of short commissioned plays about issues of climate change presented to coincide with the United Nations COP meetings. In 2017, CCTA ran for seven weeks from October 1 through November 18, with over 130 international participating sites presenting readings or productions of these plays. Uniquely this year, a significant number of plays were written by Canadian playwrights to correspond to support related to the Canada 150 celebration of the sesquicentennial of confederation. All plays were inspired by the following prompt:
Assume your audience knows as much as you do. Assume they are as concerned as you are. But they may not know what to do with this information and those concerns. So how can we turn the challenges of climate change into opportunities?
This session will feature a short presentation by the co-organizers discussing the highlights of the project, followed by a panel with CCTA playwrights and organizers to share their experiences and relate the impact of the networked event. The last part of the session will invite the audience into the conversation.
More Sustainable Materials and Practices for Scenic Production
From established and emerging and sometimes ephemeral materials to production planning, the presenters will discuss and evaluate what professional and academic theatres are doing to create scenic elements more sustainably. The presenters will revisit the companies they profiled in their 2013 article "Four Principles for a Sustainable Future" to discuss how their work has modified over the course of 5 years. Approaching the work as designer and technical director, the presenters offer a binocular perspective that considers form and function as interconnected necessities that are intertwined with ecoeffective approaches to production that include season planning, production calendars, sourcing sustainable products, design and construction for material realities, and component reuse.
How are you taking a stand where you stand?
An open – but structured – conversation among EMOS participants to share, and crowdsource, strategies for practicing and implementing ecodramaturgy in university theater departments and/or at professional theaters. We propose to circulate a set of questions/talking points among participants in advance of the conference, and invite them to come prepared to share both their successes and failures in integrating ecodramaturgy into the collaborative process. At the conference itself, we would structure a forum in which participants could share ideas and best practices, query others on ways to overcome common issues (inertia, business as usual), and offer an opportunity for participants to brainstorm and crowdsource additional ideas.
World Cafe: The role of the arts in environmental stewardship
Amanda Hansen, Community-Engaged Student Assistant, University of Alaska Anchorage
Creating an informed and engaged public is fostered by providing opportunities for people to talk with one another. Dialogue events provide a venue for relationship-building and exploration of concepts and ideas that can increase people’s capacity and comfort to engage in more formal modes of civic engagement. World Cafés were developed to hold conversations that evolve through several rounds of collective discussions. World Cafes are designed to have an inclusive and inviting atmosphere that allows a community of diverse individuals to collectively share knowledge. This format allows for a larger issue to be discussed by small groups and their individual knowledge be collected to develop encompassing questions and concerns relating to the issue at hand.
This interactive event will start with a brief overview of the World Café model to orient participants to the format. There will a series of three questions centered on the role of the arts in environmental stewardship. Participants will shift between tables for each question, with each move providing an opportunity to mingle with new people. Each table will have a historian who provides a brief summary of the prior group’s discussion, thus increasing the cross-pollination of ideas. Each question will be discussed for 15 minutes before a final large group discussion provides an opportunity for common themes and interests to be identified. Incorporated into the World Café model is an opportunity for participants to write and draw at their tables to provide a visual record of key moments and ideas from each discussion. Post-event, Dialogues for Public Life will share the notes and images from the World Café on their webpage, thus allowing participants to revisit what was shared.
Integrating the arts and environmental issues in educational settings
Antonia (Tonia) Krueger, Eckerd College
This community discussion for artists and educators invites participants to share strategies and best practices with each other in developing student performance projects that integrate ecology and the arts in an interdisciplinary classroom. The two-part session will consist first of a formal presentation of examples of student projects at Eckerd College, followed by a community discussion and brainstorming session about approaches integrating arts and ecology in an educational setting.
The presentation portion of the discussion will begin with a brief overview of an interdisciplinary course called Performance and the Environment (PATE) offered at Eckerd College, a small liberal arts college on the coast of Florida. This course introduces undergraduate students to current practical and theoretical issues in performance and ecology and requires them to put together their own cumulative short public video performance projects. The course has been offered three times so far, with approximately 45 resulting final projects generated by students. PATE counts as an elective for the theatre, environmental studies, and film studies majors, as well as toward a general education E-perspective requirement, so students in the class come from a wide range of majors and backgrounds in the performing arts, digital media studies, and environmental studies. Students have created educational presentations, choreographed dances, stop motion animations, satirical music videos, PSAs for local environmental nonprofits, and short eco-horror films. The course and project overview would be illustrated through clips from a select number of these student projects.
Participants will then be invited to share their experiences of designing and implementing projects for students with each other. Participants will come away from the session with renewed inspiration and ideas about possible ways in which they can integrate the arts and environmental issues in educational settings, as well as a feeling of renewed community.
Monkey Business: "Or Getting Your Ape On"
Matthew Delbridge, University of Melbourne, Victorian College of the Arts
This paper discusses an acting practice generated using contemporary Motion Capture technologies, which offers an empathetic resistance to the performed nature of humanness, when an actor ‘gets their ape on’. The work of performers like Andy Serkis and others in King Kong (Jackson 2005) and the Planet of the Apes series (Reeves 2011, Wyatt 2014, 2017), offer a useful lens to examine the act of playing primate. When placed alongside more traditionally understood costumed acts of ‘aping’ , where it is explicity clear there is a mask and suit at play, the nature of the actor’s work in MoCap (framed here as zoo and anthropomorphic) challenges notions of the authentic as primate is played. These performances invariably include modes of ‘learning’ where the primate becomes human – an inverse zoomorphic mode of acting to achieve an anthropomorphic presentation ie man, playing ape, learning to become man. The additional layer added by the techno processes of Motion Capture and CGI enable what we eventually see on the screen to seem real – particularly when blended seamlessly alongside unaltered human performances. This facilitates a binary link to performance normally reserved for the stage, where the act of playing is overtly acknowledged as such, ie what we see on stage is anything but real. When the actor drives i) a mocap markerset, ii) a neutral avatar and iii) a characterised zoomorph in CGI, the size and scale of gesture required to control the animation (when the layers are revealed) are anything but natural. The necessary theatricalisation of the actor playing (and feeling) animal to achieve authenticity offers a resistance to the demands of the screen and challenges the orthodoxy of commonplace internalised performance. In this mode the overt theatricalisation of the actor’s method of performance is resistant in nature, particularly when the form demands ‘overaction’ for the commodified ape to feel ‘real’.
The Creative Ecology of Theatre Production: the design of teams for greener theatre and lasting change
Paul Brunner, Indiana University
Practices in green theatre production can be reimagined through the framework presented in Mehler and Brunner (2013, Four Principles for a Sustainable Future) of community, local, intergenerational, and positive (CLIP). More recent work (2016, Brunner and Ranseen, The Greening of Academic Theatre) common impediments to change and discusses the forces which resist novel ideas in theatrical production. The paper will investigate the intersection of the CLIP principles with material from creative ecologies (teams) research that may help theatre makers answer driving questions (and result in more real progress) about our relationship with ecological communities.
Framework for ecological communities comes from a growing body of literature in Creative Industries (CI) that examines creativity and innovation in teams. Team-based projects across CI are framed as project ecologies, or creative ecologies. These collaborative, cross-functional, teams work on projects to produce specific results. Team creativity and innovation operates more effectively than on an individual basis, and there is added value and more robust creative output when teams are involved. This framework defines creative project ecologies two ways, first by field (architecture, theatre, advertising, apparel, music, etc), and second by geography (small communities to metropolitan centers, and local to regional networks).
The paper will map CLIP principles over the framework for project ecologies and present several models. Each model can be used to explore scenarios that seek to craft more effective and sustainable solutions for greener theatre production. Several models will be presented and solutions derived for further evaluation.
Sharing Voices: Contemporary Performance on Behalf of the Arctic
Antonia (Tonia) Krueger, Eckerd College
This paper will examine recent performative works that convey layered portrayals of the peoples, creatures, and land in the Arctic circle for a global popular audience, through the critical lens of métissage, in order to discuss ways in which multiple voices come together to tell a complex story in these works. Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna), first released in 2015, is a role playing videogame created through a collaboration of Alaskan Iñupiat peoples with E-Line videogame designers. The game is based on a traditional story of a girl who is helped to survive through a friendship with an Arctic fox. Chantal Bilodeau's play Sila, first published in 2015, is the first in an intended eight-play cycle (two have now been completed) presenting perspectives and stories on climate change from each of the eight countries that intersect the Arctic Circle. The play was commissioned by Mo'olelo Performing Arts Company to explore "the intersections between race, class, and environment" (Mo'olelo 2011). It depicts the interdependent relationships of a polar bear mother and cub, an Inuit activist and her daughter, and a Québécois climate scientist. The Breathing Hole by Colleen Murphy depicts a relationship between an Inuit woman, a polar bear cub that lives on for hundreds of years, and the contemporary world of climate change. According to Hasebe-Ludt et alia, métissage is “Not only a theory but also a praxis…. that resists ‘heterophobia’ or the fear of mixing, and the desire for a pure untainted space, language, or form of research.... engages the world as dialogic and heteroglossic… invites readers to attend to the interreferentiality of texts….and enables researchers and their audiences to imagine and create plural selves and communities that thrive on ambiguity and multiplicity” (Métissage 142).
Eco-Theatre and Storytelling Strategies in Climate Fiction
Jordan Hall, playwright
Compared to many other media, theatre has only recently begun to engage meaningfully with climate change as subject matter, and as the climate crisis has worsened, much of our work has fallen into two major categories: The cautionary and the informational. The informational (pieces such as Alana Mitchell’s Seasick, Annabel Soutar’s Seeds, or The Watershed) tend to leverage research and journalism strategies in an attempt to increase audience awareness and understanding of various environmental conditions, while the cautionary (Caryl Churchill’s Escaped Alone, Anne Washburn’s Mr. Burns, and Steve Water’s The Contingency Plan) tend to use tropes drawn from tragedy, elegy, and dystopia in an attempt to convince the audience of the necessity of action if we intend to divert ourselves from our present course. More recent work has pushed into collaborative and interdisciplinary creation, primarily out of a sense that traditional narrative strategies are insufficient to address the complicated, intersectional storytelling needs arising from ecological crisis as subject matter. In this paper, I will examine these tendencies of eco-theatre in the context of a much longer, established tradition of Climate Fiction, a category of work stretching from ancient flood epics such as Gilgamesh, through the work of Transcendentalist authors such as Whitman and Melville, and in the present day works of writers like Amitav Ghosh and Kim Stanley Robinson. By considering the place of eco-theatre in this broader tradition of discourse around nature, climate, and our relationship with both, I hope to contextualize current practice and expand the conversation around the storytelling traditions available to creators of eco-theatre.
“In Love with Place”: Settler Performances & Unsettling Affects on the Wild West Coast
Emma Morgan-Thorp, York University
In Writing the West Coast: In Love with Place, Christine Lowther and Anita Sinner have collected personal essays which express the authors’ love of the coastal wilderness. These short pieces are representative of a common affect among residents and visitors to the West Coast: love of the land and sea, love of the wild, love of nature. My ongoing research attempts to unsettle and parse this ‘love’ on the part of settler Canadians who are often simultaneously asserting their sense of belonging there, their sovereignty, their nationalism, and their right to make decisions about how best to care for the land. My contention is that performance studies presents a unique way intervention into anti-colonial settler environmentalisms on the West Coast.
While living near and travelling around Gulf Islands National Park Reserve and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve/Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, I begun to consider ways in which performance theory and performative experiments can help me complicate my own feelings of love toward wild West Coast spaces. I have conducted preliminary analysis of text from National Parks websites alongside the theoretical work of Sto:lo musicologist Dylan Robinson; I have turned my tourist gaze upon the signage itself in the Ucluelet-Tofino (Clayoquot Sound) region in an Instagram photography experiment; and I am planning future projects involving walking ethnographies and public interactive performances that will help me understand how settler tourists and locals envision our relationships with and responsibilities and entitlements to these places.
My work considers settler performances of tourism, nationalism, sovereignty, environmentalism, care, and belonging. Looking at these concepts through the lens of performance theory offers new ways to understand the colonizing aspects of conservation narratives, the racism that attaches itself to environmentalisms, and the settler fragility bound up in the tendency toward reconciliatory affects.
Climate Telling: Reports from Participation in the Climate Change Theatre Action and Climate Stories Collaborative
Derek Davidson, Appalachian State University
This fall Appalachian State University’s College of Fine and Applied Arts hosted two workshops, co-facilitated by Derek Davidson and Laura England of the Department of Sustainable Development. The majority of the US population believe in and are concerned about issues arising from climate change, but under half the population are actually talking about these issues. We theorized that the arts might provide methods to for allowing those who experience the effects of climate change to express themselves through storytelling, poetry, drama, drawing, and other artistic forms.
In the workshops participants played games and experimented with different theatrical techniques drawn from the work of Augusto Boal. They left the workshops galvanized, excited to bring what they had learned into the classrooms, with the goal of helping students produce artistic artifacts, such artifacts becoming part of an end-of-year showcase.
A student organization, Playcrafters (unconnected to a specific class), also decided to participate in the showcase, first by performing in the Climate Change Theatre Action, an international series of readings and performances of climate plays. They performed readings of 10 short plays (contributed by artists from around the world), on November 10, 2017.
This paper offers a summary of the Climate Stories Collaborative Showcase as well as the Climate Change Theatre Action, reporting on the transformative effect both events had on the participants, the responses from the audience, and a offering brief meditation/response to author Dani Snyder-Young’s question (as posed in her book Theatre of Good Intentions): What kind of change can we expect from Theatre for Social Change? Observations from albeit a sparse test pool in a small town in North Carolina would signal tentative hopefulness. The effects of theatre and storytelling may be difficult to quantify, but they can be various, unpredictable, and profound.
Dead, White and Green: The Performance Ecology of the Dead White Zombies Collective
Dale Seeds, The College of Wooster
The Dallas-based performance collective Dead White Zombies emerged from the fertile imaginations of writer and director Thomas Riccio, producer Lori McCarty and actor Brad Hennigan in 2011. To date, the collective has created eight site-specific productions utilizing spaces such as a defunct iron works shop, empty warehouses, store fronts, a local taqueria, and a former crack house. One unique feature of their evolving dramaturgy includes the ways in which they merge their performances with the ecology and sustainability of their performance spaces.
These interwoven strategies include:
The liminality of the Dead White Zombie performance spaces and their inner-city neighborhoods are set against the postindustrial landscape of West Dallas, much of which occupies a former 90’s Superfund clean-up.
The transformation of the neighborhood and the re-purposing of the performance venue is temporary.
Potential sites are in a sense “auditioned” and chosen for their own specific qualities early in the script development stages.
This commitment to re-purposing performance spaces also grounds a stagecraft that is both aesthetically specific and sustainable.
The Dead White Zombies performance model offers us an active and engaging (sometimes literal) dialogue with the ecology, space and sustainability of their performances.
"Ghettoized in a White Guy's Play": Talker's Town and The Girl Who Swam Forever
Nelson Gray, Department of English, Vancouver Island University
Crystal Burnip, Nuuchahnulth student and a recent graduate of Indigenous Studies at Vancouver Island University
In the mid 1990s, in response to a traumatic event in my adolescence, I began work on Talker's Town, a play about two non-Indigeous boys who encounter a Katzie girl on the run from residential school. This spring, some twenty years later, this play is being published as a companion piece with The Girl Who Swam Forever by the award-winning Metis playwright Marie Clements. Clement's play provides a contrasting view of the characters and action in Talker's Town by speaking from the perspective of the Katzie girl and via the voice of her grandmother's ancestral spirit in the form of a 100-year-old sturgeon who awakens in the mud at the bottom of the river.
How did this collaborative publication come about and what were the cultural negotiations involved? After speaking about the provenance of these two plays, Gray will be reading excerpts from Talker's Town, and Crystal Burnip, of the Hupacasath First Nations, will respond with readings from Marie Clements' play--a work originating from shared concerns of misogyny, racism, and ecocide, but from a vastly different worldview.