Theresa May

Earth Matters On Stage 2012 at Carnegie Mellon University

  There have been a bevvy of eco-theater conferences in recent years, but it’s great to bring it all together with Earth Matters on Stage, which took place this past May 31st-June 2 at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburg, PA. It included a collection of performances, presentations and panels covering everything from carbon footprint to eco-dramaturgy. Session titles included: “Sustainable Design,” “Ecocriticism & Contemporary American Theater,” and “The Carbon Footprint of Theatrical Production,” among many others. That last one was by CSPA’s Ian Garrett, and involved discussions of all the usual players: Arcola Theatre, Julie’s Bicycle, the Broadway Green Alliance . . . Discussions of sustainable design carried throughout the festival and bled into discussion of performance throughout the weekend. Again and again: how do we make theatrical production more sustainable? How do we incorporate or cultural dialogue with the planet into the work? How do we make work that goes beyond “being less bad” into something that actually has a positive impact on the environment?

Below are a selection of photos from the event. Keynote speaker and performer was Holly Hughes, one of the NEA four, whose most recent work (“The Dog and Pony Show: Bring your own Pony,”) examines her relationship with her pets. Ecodrama Playwright competition winners this year included Chantal Bilodeau, whose work “Sila,” explores a cultural cross-section of inuit culture, scientific researchers, and polar bears, and Mark Rigney, whose play, “Bears,” depicts a slow deterioration of civilization through the intimate stories of a group of zoo-bound bears.  The work of Earth Matters founder Theresa May was ever-present in the discussion on eco-dramaturgy, and the weekend ended with a discussion of conferences past and future. The dialogue continues, as we discuss and discover more ways that our set of skills can serve the environment.

Earth Matters On Stage: Wrap-Up

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It’s been more than a week since the final days of this year’s Earth Matters On Stage EcoDrama Symposium. I returned from Oregon to be immediately eaten alive by my other life: just coming up for air now and able to digest some of the great happenings and events. Hence this giant post.

The picture above is from day nine : that’s Ian Garrett and Naseem Mazloom of the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts chillin’  on the lawn of the University of Oregon. After nine very full days of lectures, workshops, panels and a staged reading of Theresa May’s intense play Salmon is Everything, we  needed a break.

The very full final weekend  started off with an early-morning video conference with a UK contingent hosted by the  Ashden Directory. The overseas contributors overcame the fuzzy video and iffy sound quality of our current technology by preparing  a short film.

In it, several leading environmental artists, administrators and thinkers passed the philosophical baton by asking questions like: “How far is art worth the damage?” and “How can we reunite culture and agriculture through performance?” The room was brimming with ideas after that, and it was all we could do to get a few notions exchanged across the Atlantic before time ran out. Watch the video: do it now.

The stimulating conversation continued the next day with a panel called Theater’s Double Helix: Green Building and Sustainable Community Engagement.  Tim DuRoche and Creon Thorne of Portland Center Stage discussed their mecca of a green theatre: the folks from CSPA discussed their future mecca of sustainable practice.

Easily one of the most fascinating panels of the week, however, was the Northwest Theater Town Hall Meeting on Place/Community/Theatre. In it, Artistic Directors and administrators from a wide swath of Pacific Northwest Theaters (Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Teatro Milagro, and the Lord Leebrick Theatre, to name a few), discussed how they strive to best serve their communities.

Issues of race surfaced, and not timidly (quote from Valerie Curtis-Newton of the Lorraine Hansberry Project: “Why does the marketing sound like an anthropological expedition? White people! Stop trying to sell me to other white people!”). The idea of non-local community also came under discussion (45% of OSF’s audience is from the SF Bay Area: the internet creates seas of non-geographic communities: PCS had Scrooge “twittering” during A Christmas Carol). All in all, great perspective from a group of seasoned professionals.

Somewhere within these ten days I led a panel and a workshop: there were also many, many other worthwhile performances and presentations (including a short play starring a Cedar Tree). Over the next few months I’ll do retrospectives of works I’ve missed: stay posted.

Garrett and I had to miss the last day to get back into California for work. We left exhausted, but excited about the future. The Earth Matters On Stage EcoDrama symposium was a kind of turning-of-the-soil, great groundwork for things to come. Thanks to the University of Oregon, Damond Morris, and Theresa May for making it happen.

Some greenmuseum.org ecology and performance links:

~enterchange

~Platform London

~Hester Reeve

~Simon Whitehead

Go to the Green Museum

Earth Matters On Stage: Rachel Rosenthal

“One of the first things people ask me, is, did I know Arteaud?”

This is how Rachel Rosenthal begins her keynote.  Here at EMOS, it’s perfect. Artistic Director Theresa May has just given her a fantastic introduction. She is in a room full of full-out EcoDrama nerds, folks who don’t need an explanation of the guttaral relationship between earth and body, who know her and her work, or who at the very least don’t need a speech about earth-saving. They know Arteaud wrote “The Theatre and its Double,” and chuckle. She knows her audience.

Rosenthal junkies at EMOS got a major fix: a presentation which included her first performance in almost 10 years, an opportunity to buy Moira Roth’s Rosenthal anthology and have it signed by the artist, and the next morning, an analysis of her work by a panel of her former students and devoted independent scholars. Heady.

Rosenthal did not, in fact, know Arteaud, but he did “save her life:” his writing gave her a logical basis to begin creating her own unique brand of performance: eco-feminist, deeply personal, and dramatically sharp. Clips shown over the weekend included L.O.W. in Gaia, in which she writes her age on her bald head in lipstick and drags bags of trash behind her on the stage, and The Others, which included 42 “non-human animal” performers.

In a presentation days later given by Deke Weaver, an interesting conversation arose. What is the line between sharpened meduim and effective message? How do you articulate an important issue without pandering, how do you push the form without driving away your audience? Rosenthal is famous for creating a body of work that is made of her own body, stories and trembling articulations. Whether or not watching Gaia rise from a pile of garbage is your idea of an endurance test, it is deeply rooted in a sobbing, grappling love for the earth. Rosenthal was saddend to learn that Arteaud never saw his idea of theater realized onstage. But of her own methods, she decries: “I will not die without having seen it, because it’s MINE.”

Go to the Green Museum

Ecodrama Playwrights Festival & Symposium Update

The Ecodrama Playwrights Festival & Symposium On Theatre and Ecology is now closed to play submissions, and have reissued their call for proposals for the symposium. The CSPA sesions are also still open, and are linked at the top of the column on the right. We hope that you’ll apply to one or both and foresee some overlap and sharing in the final symposium. We, the CSPA, will be concentrated on the more scientific research side of the symposium, but are very excited to see everything everyone has to offer!

The Revised Call:

May 21~ 31, 2009 ~ University of Oregon

Ecology is at the heart of burgeoning creativity and interdisciplinary scholarship across the arts and humanities. This Festival, together with a concurrent Symposium, invites artists, scholars and activists to share their work, ideas, and passions with one another and with the larger community.  

CALL FOR PROPOSALS for Artist Workshops and Scholarly Papers.  FEB. 1 2009 DEADLINE

We welcome creative and innovative proposals for workshops, round-tables, panels, papers, working sessions, installations, or participatory community gatherings that explore, examine, challenge, articulate, or nourish the possibilities of theatrical or performance responses to the environmental crisis in particular, and our ecological relationship in general.

The form and format is wide-open and we will schedule and shape the Symposium around the types of proposals received and selected. We especially encourage artists who have performance work they would like to present to develop a workshop in which they present all or part of their work, and then use it as the basis for involving others in exploration. We encourage proposals that go beyond a recitation of ideas or positions, and instead bring presenters and participants together as they engage the driving question of how theatre has or might function as part of our reciprocal relationship with ecological communities.

Possible topics include: 

  •  land and body in performance;
  •  representations of bioregionalism; 
  •  eco-literacy and performance;
  •  representation of/and environmental justice; 
  •  green theatre production; sustainable theatre;
  •  design and technology developments towards green practice;
  •  old cultural narratives/new stories;
  • indigenous performance; 
  •  community-based performance/ecological communities; 
  •  sensing place/staging place; 
  •  the ecologies of theatrical form and/or space; 
  •  animal representation; 
  •  application of ecocriticism to plays, performance and culture.

    Send a one-page proposal and/or abstract by 1 February, 2009 to: 

    Earth Matters Symposium 2009, Theresa May, Director, 

    Theater Arts, VIL 216, University of Oregon
    Eugene, OR 97403. 

    Please include: type of session & title; time-length (60 min; 90 min; 2+ hours; half-day); bio or cv. 

    We encourage proposals that include more than one presenter; however, single person proposals are accepted and will be combined with others as themes and formats allow.