Yearly Archives: 2009

Mo`olelo Receives $30,000 Grant from The James Irvine Foundation

Funds will commission playwright Chantal Bilodeau to write a play on race, poverty and environment

Thursday, June 18, 2009 – San Diego, CA – Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company, San Diego’s community-focused, socially-conscious, Equity theater company, today announced The James Irvine Foundation has awarded the Company a $30,000 grant over two years to commission a new play by Chantal Bilodeau. This grant is made as part of the Irvine Foundation’s Creative Connections Fund, which was designed to reach small and midsize arts organizations pursuing a diversity of projects and ideas.

The funds will support the commissioning, work-shopping and development of an original script by Ms. Bilodeau that focuses on the contemporary debate over the Northwest Passage and the intersection of climate change, commercial opportunity and the survival of Inuit peoples native to the region. Through the play development process, Mo`olelo will engage San Diego’s Native American populations and environmental organizations to contribute to the evolution of the script through public readings and discussions.

Mo`olelo launched a greening initiative in 2007 to identify how theater can be created without damaging the long-term health of our communities and the environment. In addition, central to Mo`olelo’s mission is to select plays that focus on diverse communities and allow the Company to engage local, nontraditional theater audiences.

“Commissioning this play will provide an opportunity for Mo`olelo to draw the connection between issues of race, class and the environment,” said Seema Sueko, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Mo`olelo. “This will allow us to support on stage, through content, the greening work we are doing backstage.”

The commission will launch in July 2009, with a first workshop and public reading of the script tentatively scheduled for June 2010. Revisions and adjustments will be made and a second workshop and public reading is scheduled for May 2011. The script is expected to be completed by June 2011.

Chantal Bilodeau is a playwright and translator originally from Montreal, Canada. Her plays include Pleasure & Pain (Magic Theatre; Foro La Gruta and Teatro La Capilla, Mexico City), The Motherline (Ohio University; University of Miami), Tagged (Ohio University; Alleyway Theatre), as well as several shorts that have been presented by Brass Tacks Theatre, City Theatre Company, The Met Theater, Philadelphia Dramatists, Raw Impressions, and Women’s Project. She has been a fellow in the Women’s Project Playwrights’ Lab, the Lark Playwrights Workshop and at the Dramatists Guild and has received grants from NYSCA, the Canada Council for the Arts, Stichting LIRA Fonds (The Netherlands), the Quebec Government House, Étant Donnés: The French-American Fund for the Performing Arts and Association Beaumarchais (France). Her translations include plays by Quebec playwrights Larry Tremblay and Catherine Léger, French-African playwright Koffi Kwahulé and Jean Cocteau. Current projects include the book for the musical The Quantum Fairies in collaboration with composer Lisa DeSpain and lyricist Mindi Dickstein and the translation of four more plays by Koffi Kwahulé.

The James Irvine Foundation is a private, nonprofit grantmaking foundation dedicated to expanding opportunity for the people of California to participate in a vibrant, successful and inclusive society. The Foundation’s grantmaking focuses on three program areas: Arts, California Democracy and Youth. Since 1937 the Foundation has provided over $1 billion in grants to more than 3,000 nonprofit organizations throughout California. With $1.4 billion in assets, the Foundation made grants of $78 million in 2008 for the people of California.

About Mo`olelo – Mo`olelo means story in Hawaiian. Selected as the inaugural Resident Theatre Company at La Jolla Playhouse, Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company is a socially-conscious theatre organization dedicated to broadening the scope of San Diego’s cultural environment by telling powerful stories that are as diverse as the islands of Hawaii, by paying Equity wages to local actors and developing environmentally-friendly theatre practices. A recipient of the Patté, San Diego Theatre Critics Circle, McDonald Playwriting and the Anti-Discrimination Awards, its mission is to create new works based on research within various communities, produce lesser-known works by master and contemporary playwrights, and educate youth. To learn more, visit www.moolelo.net or call 619-342-7395.

grant from The James Irvine Foundation « Mo`olelo Blog.

Direct Action Artists

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“Remember, if someone you don’t know very well is trying to get you to build a bomb, just say no!”

So speak the puppets of the Earth First! Roadshow.

At the recent Earth Matters On Stage EcoDrama symposium, PhD candidate Sarah Standing read a paper analyzing  Earth First! and Greenpeace activities as performance. Both groups are famous for direct actions meant to draw attention to ecological plight, but differ in their extremes: Greenpeace appeals to those who prefer non-violent tactics, and Earth First! is known for spawning a few “domestic terrorist organizations.”

While not actually committing acts of terrorism, Earth First! activists are famous for tree-sits and other extreme measures. Some of its founders are credited with fake-cracking the Glen Canyon Dam in 1981. Recently its members have turned to more traditional theatrics in an attempt to educate and energize the movement.

Performers of the Earth First! Roadshow travel the country in a Chevy van with a timeline of “green scare” arrests, a slideshow of Earth First! actions, a map of ecological disasters and actions in America, and a security culture puppet show with a cast of woodland creatures. The pig puppet plays the cop, the owl is the narrator, and everyone scolds a fox named Danny for bragging about his radical graffiti. You can listen to a reading of the puppet show here.

The website ups the drama by comparing the roadshow to The Fellowship of the Ring:

. . . the roadshow is a great tool for cultivating resistance. There are countless examples to draw from in the story of radical movements before us: militant labor organizing tours, anti-fascist resistance recruitment and international speaking tours to build cross-border solidarity. The origin of Earth First! is credited to a few roadshows that kicked it all off in the early 1980s. We are building on this tradition; akin to a fellowship crossing Middle Earth to amass insurgents to face Mordor head-on.

Enemies of the Earth beware . . .

Go to the Green Museum

Radical Nature @ The Barbican reviewed

Skye Sherwin in The Guardian:

Even the remotest hermit knows that the effects of climate change are the greatest threat faced by mankind. So where does that leave artists? Can they contribute anything to debates about the environment? Might the imperatives of environmentalism constrain their freedom to make interesting work? And …
Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Artist’s Wildflower Park is not Art

{Chapman Kelley’s wildflower park in Chicago. I think this is a before shot?}

…or at least the courts say so.

I’m having a bit of trouble figuring out what is going on here, mostly because I haven’t seen before and after shots, but artist Chapman Kelley is appealing a court decision stating that his 1.5 acre wildflower park is not “original art.” The city of Chicago altered the park in 2004, removing half of his installation, and Kelley subsequently sued the city for $825,000.

Here’s a bit more from artinfo.com:

Kelley is asking the federal appeals court in Chicago to overturn a ruling that his 1.5-acre wildflower piece, in which the flowers are planted in the shape of an ellipse, was not original enough to warrant protection under U.S. copyright law. The City of Chicago reduced the work by over half in 2004, to the dismay of the artist. Kelley says the destroyed wildflowers were valued at $825,000, and he wants the city to pay him for the damages.

There’s also this story from April ’09.

As I mentioned before…some photos of the park now would really help me figure out what’s going on. It is interesting to follow and see if gardens will or will not be considered something that can be copyrighted.

> More work at chapmankelley.com.

Go to Eco Art Blog

Which -cene Are We In?

Are we heading into an era of a homogonized plant and animal communities, brought on by our global economy that moves everything around, whether it is goods, animals or bacteria and fungus?

In an article titled The Sixth Extinction in the May 25, 2009 issue of The New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert writes about the mysterious disappearance of tree frogs from Panama and Costa Rica, which scientists now believe is caused by a fungus that we’ve unknowingly helped jump continents. In the article, I was struck by a term used to refer to the epoch we live in: the homogenocene.

Last year, I made a post about the anthropocene or geological epoch defined by humans. The homogenocene is also all about us and refers to the declining biodiversity and diminishing ecosystems left in the wake of human development. When talking about the natural world, what’s important is to realize that every living thing on earth will have to go through the bottleneck of human development. The assumption now is that many species will die out, leaving us with a diminished natural world David Quamman has called the Planet of the Weeds.

{New York Weed (Longspine sandbur), ink on paper, 30 x 22 inches, 2005 by Katie Holten.}

Whatever we call it (my vote is for homogenocene, although it seems that both terms have an extra syllable that makes it hard to pronounce) this is a topic artists have been working with recently, such as the Katie Holten drawing above.

What role can artists take as scientists report on this undergoing mass extinction? One route might be helping understand how to live in this increasingly homogenized natural world, or how to begin carving out localized economies and ways of living. Or making sense of and helping communicate about what is lost.

I have to be honest though, reading about mass extinction makes me feel that almost all artistic effort and work is futile in the face of these global problems. Humans are already the ultimate weed and the planet is simply becoming one giant self-portrait. And rather then tending it like a scruffy garden or arboretum, I’m afraid we might end up with one big lawn.

Go to Eco Art Blog

Change and the power of narrative

When it comes to changing perceptions, artist Heather Morison, whose work with Ivan Morison is strongly located in narrative, argues for the importance of story telling in a new interview on the RSA Arts & Ecology Centre website:

One of the things which I find really fascinating is how when you …
Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Tree Museum in the Bronx


The Tree Museum, a project celebrating 100 trees and the stories of 100 people, will be up this summer in the Bronx to commemorate the 100th anniversary of The Grand Concourse, a boulevard in that neighborhood.

Created by artist Katie Holten, you can read all about it at treemuseum.org or in the nytimes.

The Tree Museum will be up from June 21–October 12, 2009.

Go to Eco Art Blog

How literature is getting to grips with climate change

Robert Butler of the Ashden Directory notes William Sidelsky’s review of the Oxfam-produced short-story collection Ox-tales: Air, Water, Fire and Earth in yesterday’s Observer. The review recognises that climate change is becoming a something recurring theme for modern writers:

A masterclass in this respect is offered by Helen Simpson’s “The …
Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

The Publicity Plant

Amsterdam-based artist and grad student Sander Veenhof has come up with an interactive and innovative way to spread the word on his name: A plant where the light only switches on when someone blogs, twitters or does a google search for his name. The project is an attempt to grow a “graduation bouquet” of flowers for Sander’s July 1 graduation.

Here’s what the flowers looked like a few minutes ago when I did a google search to turn the light on:

These plants look like they need a little love…why not help this guy out by doing some google searches? As a fellow graduate student in art, I can understand the need and desire to get your name out there. Guess that’s why I’m enjoying playing right into his project by making a blog post about his project.

Since this is grad student work, I’ll also jump right in with my critique: I need more transparency. What kinds of flowers are there? How long does the light switch on when his name is searched or blogged? Do different searches/posts/etc result in more or less time? Won’t the plants be all fucked up if they are not controlled for some semblance of normal daylight hours? (However, I do like the immediacy of turning the lights on immediatly….)

Check out the Publicity Plant at www.sndrv.nl/publicityplant/

Go to Eco Art Blog