Monthly Archives: September 2015

I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On

by Kendra Fanconi

Featured Image: Floating footpath by Cornelia Konrads, for Tinkers

This post originally appeared on Howlround, and is being posted under a under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0). You can find the original post here:

This week on HowlRound, we continue our exploration of Theatre in the Age of Climate Change begun last April with this special series for Climate Change Week NYC. How does our work reflect on, and responds to, the challenges brought on by a warming climate? How can we participate in the global conversation about what the future should look like, and do so in a way that is both inspiring and artistically rewarding? Kendra Fanconi is a fellow Canadian and theatremaker who, in the last few months, has been watching the forests of British Columbia go up in flames. Addressing climate change in her work in not an abstract concept, but a real and immediate concern that is deeply rooted in a sense of place. —Chantal Bilodeau

Beckett said it.

“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”

A statement from the Anthropocenic age. The epoch where human activities started to have a global impact on Earth’s ecosystems. The age of climate change.

“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”

We get it, don’t we? I hope you don’t mind that I included you in that. I operate under the assumption that what I feel and what my audience feels are the same, and that I can refer to us as a “we.” “We like this.” “We want this.” “We need this.” But strangely, you, as you read this, you are actually my audience right now and I don’t know you well enough to know if I am like you. I accept that I may be the canary in the coal mine, and that you are not feeling this yet but I would propose that you will be, we all will be, that this quote sums up our lives, as real as the death of the newspaper, the wristwatch, and the oceans.

Okay, hang on, did someone really just say “death of the oceans?” I think I need to lie down for a minute. I’m not ready for that today. I need another coffee. Or a peek at my newsfeed. Maybe someone got married, went to Italy, or had a nice squishy baby. Or maybe my cousin in Washington State who just had a nice squishy baby is going to lose her house to a wildfire.

“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”

I look at that quote. I note two things. “I can’t go on” speaks to the truth of everyday grappling with climate change. “I’ll go on” implies action.

“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”

And, friends, theatremakers in the age of climate change, I propose to you that somewhere within these seven words is our stage.

I’m part of The Only Animal. We make original theatre out of a deep engagement with place. We’ve made shows in theatres of snow and ice, of sand, in swimming pools, and on working waterways an acre wide, with birds, boats. and a bicycle ballet. Because we work with place, we work with climate change. We made NiX, theatre of snow and ice as a part of the Cultural Olympiad in Whistler in 2010. It was the warmest winter in 126 years. I remember coming out of our snow theatre during tech and kicking at something funny on the ground. Where there should have been four-foot snowpack, there was grass. Our theatre was melting.

“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”

The Only Animal have always had environmental awareness. Sickened by the familiar sight at strike of the five-ton loaded to the dump, we set the intention to be a zero-impact company, looking to minimize and offset our carbon footprint. We paid attention to where we sourced materials, hoping to divert them from the waste stream, and looked carefully at where they ended up. We haven’t always been successful at “zeroing,” but our mandate highlights sustainability. And, you know, that felt like enough.

Then we started making a piece in an old-growth forest near our home in the tiny town of Roberts Creek, on the slopes of Mount Elphinstone, outside of Vancouver, BC, where our company is based. It’s an adaptation of Paul Harding’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel Tinkers. Tinkers is an ecstatic love song to the natural world. It is transcendental, proposing that Human = Nature = the Divine. The piece is off-grid, a roving show with twelve locations. A new addition to our creative team is German environmental artist Cornelia Konrads, who is making large, gravity-defying installations in some of these sites: a moss carpet that wants to fly, a cedar shake doorway that floats away, liminal green windows that are woven into the forest. The work seeks on many levels to integrate the site into the story—and into ourselves. It is a production that combines professional actors with cameos/choir made of locals, weaving the place into the heart of the production.

Environmental artist and designer Cornelia Konrads with maquette for Tinkers, The Only Animal, based on the novel by Paul Harding.

And we are siting the work within an old-growth forest—a large carbon sinkhole that is part of the climate change solution—that is being logged. Like, right now. I am writing this at 4:54 a.m. and the trucks are on their way to cut block A87126 and its 600-year-old yellow cedars. And a roadblock started 54 minutes ago. A few local activists are there. Later I will make muffins for them. But right now I am making theatre.

I believe that the fastest way of traveling to the human heart is through stories. These natural places have stories to tell, but we are losing the ability to listen. I include myself in that. I’m caught in my to-do list, I’m plugged into a podcast and the trail is just a treadmill, or I’m yakking on the phone the whole time. The forest is just a big green wall, and I don’t really know how to get in.

Theatre is a way for us to get in. Maybe it is even the best way.

The forest knows height in a way you and I never will. It is thinking backwards in time down to the ground. This mountain slope has a memory that is geographic. It remembers when the Earth folded rock and the sea drowned valleys. A beach remembers high tide. A snowflake remembers the sky. Like these sites, I, too am made of minerals and tidal waters, I know these upheavals. I’m begging these places to remind me who I am. To fill in the part of my story which is elemental, eternal, absolute. Right now, I need a mountain inside me, I need this story.

Theatre. In and of itself. Inherently. Is it the answer? Or is it just a thing you buy, like a pair of shoes that is pretty and distracting? Is that two-hour show ready to meet the challenge of the anthropocenic age and affect meaningful change?

The deeper background to my own practice is that I was raised by a political activist. My mom had me on the picket lines before my eighth birthday. I stood with her when she testified. I wrote letters with crayons that spilled out of the mailbag onto the county commissioner’s desk. She won some and she lost some. Oh, then came the Bush administration and she lost them all.

Naturally, I rebelled. I rejected the notion that protest was the way to create change. I looked at studies and stats and facts and chose fiction. More than that, I chose magical realism, that form that purports that the inner world is truer than the outer. I justified that creating site-based work was in itself a political act. I wrote this in grant applications. My work makes the real world the stage and changes it, creatively, impossibly, with a vision for something more. And I feel that this does, on some level, challenge our audience to transform the world.

But that was yesterday, that was last year, that was two shows ago. The present is not a time for “on some level” subtlety. Thematic resonance is not enough. I got to a point this spring where I just decided I needed to put climate change on my to-do list. ‘Cause I am practical like that. It’s the only way to get things done.

So I made categories and I said, “Every day I want to take action on climate change in a personal way, within my community, and a national/international arena.” And so, every day, I would do a brainstorm. (I get up early, right?) The personal was easy—I have daily work of homesteading for my family to get us off the grid, and reducing our carbon footprint. So I plant the beets, forage the mushrooms, plan the micro-hydro. I break it to my kid that we are not driving ten kilometres to Starbucks for a muffin. The community level took effort—I ask the principal of my older son’s school what are they doing on the climate change issue, I come “out” on the issue locally, and when I am buying beer at the general store and the talk turns to how hot it is this year, I call it climate change and talk about the local initiative for a solar co-op. On the national level, I try to get educated. (This is hard, I have a brain wired for fiction, and now I am trying to retain facts.) I sign up for and’s newsletters. I sign every online petition I can. I write letters. Still, it is a tall order. How can I begin to make a difference? It’s so, so daunting…

“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”

I go on making lists for daily actions on climate change, but mostly I work. I run an independent theatre company, right? So, sixty hours a week, I work… And I am in the middle of Tinkers, and I start looking at that.

Kevin MacDonald and the family at dinner, in Tinkers.

Tinkers is sited on private property, this old growth forest I mentioned. It’s ten acres. But of course, ten acres isn’t a forest, it’s a stand of trees. The property is part of a much larger forest—much of it old growth—that is slowly being logged. Not by a multi-national corporation, but by local and provincial government. I know about it because there is a local forest watch group. Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) is putting forward a plan to preserve 2000 hectares as a provincial park. (That’s sort of like a national park, for all of you Americans out there.)

I get involved with ELF in small ways. I come out with ten others for “groundtruthing” on a proposed cutblock to count and measure the girth of old growth Douglas firs that aren’t listed in the government assessment docs. After we count, the ten of us sit on the logging road and the talk turns to recipes for road kill. This is a very select audience, I think, those who are activated to save this forest: those with coyotes in deep freeze. I can rally a bigger audience, I think.

But the two-week theatre run of Tinkers is maybe not going to do it. It is a part, but not the whole. I need more engagement, more events, a buildup that can build the movement, that can maybe culminate in Tinkers next summer. What if we could open the show and the provincial park at the same time? That’s a vision! And so I approach Ross Muirhead who leads ELF. They regularly lead hikes into this endangered forest to stir up public support. I talk to him about partnering.


Tinkers director Kendra Fanconi with Ross Muirhead of Elphinstone Logging Focus at Tinkers development workshop.

Which pretty much brings me to the present. Where I doubt what my one body can do to combat climate change, I have faith in what this forest can do. The Only Animal is committed to the preservation of this rare, coastal, old growth forest, this beautiful and valuable carbon sink. A Simon Fraser University study from 2010 says, “The researchers conclude that when a conventional, narrowly focused valuation of forests is broadened to assess the value of forests as carbon storehouses, recreation sites, and sources of products other than timber—wild mushrooms, for example—increased conservation wins out over logging in most cases.” We agree. The Only Animal’s work is to push it to the tipping point. To engage an audience and connect them to this place. To activate that audience towards conservation. Our community is 10,000 people. I think we can reach 3000+ of them through our live events. More on social media. It feels hopeful, doesn’t it?

So now, we aren’t just mounting a production of Tinkers in the forest for a few weeks next summer. We have created ten months of programming leading up to it, with monthly theatrical activations in this endangered forest, including, Trail Mix: a mixtape musical adventure, an illuminated hike on the longest night of the year, an event with puppets made of only forest floor materials, an interspecies song collaboration called Dawn Chorus. If our local community has become disconnected from the forest then we are matchmakers. We are setting them up. We want them to fall hard. Doesn’t it make sense? That you could connect people with place and then that they would act to save it?

Still, I have so many questions.

How do we make activism palatable? The old paradigm was outrage to action. My generation is more likely to go from outrage to overwhelm to Candy Crush. How can we be reached? Urban Dictionary defines solutionary as “A type of revolutionary who makes change by providing a better way to do things.” The Only Animal love this word: it appeals to us as innovators. Can we be solutionary thinkers here? Can we innovate activism?

In our year of theatrical events, we plan to creatively document each piece in short form and feed our social media networks the bites. We know our work is sticky. Folks will share it. That is part of the public awareness piece. Maybe it can translate to public pressure. And we hope those documentation pieces themselves will market our movement to the decision makers. Our forest watch partners will help on that front. If people are too jaded/busy/whatever to go to their representatives themselves, then we will document them, their voices, their presence, their stand and take it forward ourselves.

Still, the questions. Can we save a forest? What is the to-do list? That’s what drives me crazy about trying to affect change in the political system. It’s so nebulous what one actually has to do. But, like any project prep I have ever done, I know I have to prepare my best plan, and then trust that better ideas will come in the room. Or the forest, in this case.

As the logging trucks are driving up the road.

I can’t even…

I’ll go on. It feels better to be in action than to be in despair. I’ll go on. I’m “out” on the climate change issue. It’s my work. I’ll go on. Creatively, with hope, with beauty. With a love of the impossible. I’ll go on.

The Arts on the Road: Accessing Smarter Travel Choices

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

During the early part of 2015 our Carbon advisers spoke with over 100 organisations and discussed how their activities affected the way they travelled. Avoiding travel is difficult, and many of the organisations we spoke to work with artists who have disabilities which constrain their travel choices, so it’s important to understand and plan around these. Among the arts, musicians, actors and dancers have to travel for rehearsals, workshops, performances and tours. Visual artists have to ship works to different locations or may have to travel to specialist facilities to create works.

Fiona MacLennan met with Garry Robson, the director and Green Champion for Birds Of Paradise Theatre Company and he spoke about their approach to organising travel and touring for artists with disabilities.

“Our particular focus in promoting the work of professional deaf and disabled artists and performers in Scottish Theatre and internationally brings with it its own challenges. We are a touring theatre company who present and develop work nationwide necessitating a degree of travel. Sadly trains are still relatively inaccessible with wheelchair users requiring assistance on and off the trains and support to negotiate stations, and once at the destination because of the inaccessibility of much public transport there is usually a need to make use of taxis to complete journeys, thus adding to the expense and carbon footprint. With this in mind, driving is often a preferred option though wherever possible we car share and try and fill the vehicle. We are currently carrying out nationwide outreach work directed towards aspiring deaf and disabled performers and young disabled people. To make this financially feasible and ecologically sound we’re currently looking at ways of delivering some of these projects on line and developing our website to include more distance learning opportunities.

There is evidence of an increasing demand for live performances in venues both nationally and internationally as well as an appreciation of the social and economic benefits of local performances for both performers and audiences. The social benefits are particularly important for the group of artists working with Birds of Paradise as underlined by Gary’s next comment:

‘In the general population disabled people are far more likely to be in fuel poverty. In particular, those people who are housebound will necessarily have larger fuel bills as they spend much longer in their homes. Many disabled people fall into the classic poverty/energy inefficient housing/increased fuel usage trap. We can’t sit around waiting for a strategic approach to accessible public transport and energy efficient housing so we try to work as carbon conscious as we can, but a bit of joined up thinking wouldn’t half help.’

As Gary points out, the lack of joined up infrastructure can make travel by public transport difficult for anyone less able bodied. This is also true for anyone travelling to more remote locations away from the major cities where public transport services become infrequent or don’t exist.

The best choices for travel will minimise emissions while still achieving the primary purpose of delivering the work of the organization. Providing guidance to everyone in your organisation via your travel policy can help them to travel the smartest way, save time and minimise emissions. Encouraging forward planning can also save on costs. Making the best travel choices can take some creativity and research so share the best ideas and knowledge with both your colleagues and your audiences. To see a simple and easy to share example you can download Creative Carbon Scotland’s travel policy.

Recording your travel and calculating your travel impacts is also important in developing your travel plan and finding ways to reduce your travel emissions. This helps you to develop an understanding of the emissions associated with different travel modes as well as highlighting the costs helping you choose between hiring a minibus for 8 or filling 2 cars or deciding between flights and trains.

Claimexpenses home pageWe know that recording travel can be time consuming so we have been trying help artists to understand how to measure their travel and develop an understanding of where their emissions are generated. Check out the project page for our online recording tool claimexpenses where you can find information and a video user guide for this tool which has been specially developed to help to capture your travel miles and calculate your emissions with the minimum of effort.

If you are an Arts organisation based in Scotland register for a free account on

The post The Arts on the Road: Accessing Smarter Travel Choices appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.


Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

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Theatre Artists Unite Around Climate Change Action: Moving to Movement

by Alison Carey

Featured Image: Douglas County Complex fire, about 10 miles east of Waterville, WA, as seen on July 15.

This post originally appeared on Howlround, and is being posted under a under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0). You can find the original post here:

This week on HowlRound, we continue our exploration of Theatre in the Age of Climate Change begun last April with this special series for Climate Change Week NYC. How does our work reflect on, and responds to, the challenges brought on by a warming climate? How can we participate in the global conversation about what the future should look like, and do so in a way that is both inspiring and artistically rewarding? For Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Alison Carey, talk about climate change is not enough anymore; we must, all of us, be willing to take action. —Chantal Bilodeau

So here we are. Here, for me, is Ashland, Oregon, where the Oregon Shakespeare Festival recently cancelled a sixth performance in our Allen Elizabethan Theatre because of smoke blowing in from the million acres that are burning in the bone-dry Pacific Northwest. I don’t know where your here is, but you may be experiencing record-breaking temperatures, land-sinking drought, flash floods, sea level rise, algae blooms, local species die-off, population change, or any one of the other effects of climate change.

Where are our theaters? They’re here, too, filled with decent, hardworking people who care deeply about the state of the world. But they’re not here here yet. As a field, we have not stepped up to our responsibilities in the face of this already-begun cataclysm.

It’s not a surprise. Climate change is terrifying, and despair, however painful, is easy. And, let’s face it, theater folks are overworked and underpaid, and going through unpredictable cultural and structural transitions that make the future unknowable and risky even without our lobbies getting storm-swamped up to the bar-tops.

But all that means is that we are just like almost everybody else alive. So we are in a perfect position to illuminate these important truths: we are in this together, change is possible, and our lives will be better after we do the work.

There are artists and institutions that are doing this work already, and I hope you are reading about them in this series and supporting their work. My two artistic homes have undertaken projects. OSF recently commissioned Idris Goodwin to look at a moment of change in the historical relationship between Americans and their environment, and OSF’s Green Task Force continues to lobby for sustainable choices within our business practices. Cornerstone TheaterCompany recently completed a remarkable state-wide tour of California: The Tempest, which looked at community and personal response to environmental destruction and rebirth.

But humans are still not doing enough of what is necessary and completely possible to change our devastating course. The only non-suicidal choice left is for the field as a whole to dig in deeper. We need more: more art, a cornucopia of aesthetic approaches, a constant re-affirmation that every piece of art we make is connected to our beautiful planet, a clear vision that this is an issue of social justice and basic decency that walks hand in vicious hand with all our other difficult but solvable ills, and a restocked imagination about how we talk to each other and our audiences. We need to build a wellspring of contagious joy to give us strength for the victories ahead. We need to apply our collaborative art-making habits to the imperative of movement making.

After the People’s Climate March in 2014, a group of interested theatremakers—both freelance and institutional friends—gathered to talk about how we could help this nascent movement get going. Our first instinct was to create a manifesto about the relationship between theater and climate change and try to get buy-in from people around the country. The more we worked over the following months, however, the more we realized that the last thing we wanted to do was generate wordsmithing chum that would distract from starting the actual work. So we decided to create Green Room, an online location for theaters and artists to…

1) Commit to engaging on the issue, with everyone crafting their own commitment based on their own capacities.

2) Find out what other folks are doing, so that our field-wide imagination and confidence around possible action will continue to grow.

3) Report out on successes and failures.

We hope this will provide community building, inspiration, and accountability. In the next few months, when the technology falls into place, we hope to get Green Room rolled out. We’ll keep you posted.

Green Room is obviously just a step, but we hope it will be a helpful one. Still, all the information and imagination in the world won’t solve the problem without leadership. Our leaders can come from our already-acknowledged leaders—extraordinary artists and artistic directors who will use their artistry, wisdom, and decision-making to help focus the collective will of the field, which in turn can help focus the collective will of our species to change laws and investment. But there is plenty of room for leadership, especially if we need to politely push a few folks out of the way to get where we need to go. Consider yourself anointed. Consider yourself required.

It’s very simple, actually. We are in a race. Either we win, bruised but still standing, full of joy at having saved our beautiful planet home, or global warming wins, and we don’t have healthy land to stand on anymore. Here we are. Here we go.

An Opera for Climate Change

By Ian Burton

Featured image: Ensemble of CO2. Photo courtesy of Teatro alla Scala.

This post originally appeared on Howlround, and is being posted under a under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License(CC BY 4.0). You can find the original post here:

This week on HowlRound, we continue our exploration of Theatre in the Age of Climate Change, which began last April with this special series for Climate Change Week NYC. How does our work reflect on, and responds to, the challenges brought on by a warming climate? How can we participate in the global conversation about what the future should look like, and do so in a way that is both inspiring and artistically rewarding? While surfing the Internet one day, I came across the spectacular trailer for the opera CO2. Since I couldn’t drop everything and fly to Milan, I asked librettist Ian Burton if he would share his experience with me. What he writes gives us a sense of the ambitious scope of this project. —Chantal Bilodeau

I started writing the libretto for Giorgio Battistelli’s opera CO2 in 2013, commissioned by La Scala Milan. I was given a generalized briefing of structuring an opera around the theme of Global Warming. I remember that my first concern was whether such a thing had been attempted before.

A number of films, documentaries, plays, and performances dealt with some aspect of the theme. Knowing that Giorgio Battistelli would have the orchestra, chorus, and great soloists of the most famous opera house in the world at his disposal, I wanted to provide him with a text that would both inspire him musically and give him maximum scope for vocal and orchestral expression. For example, big chorus scenes would allow him to show off the vast and brilliant orchestra to the full, while powerful, lyrical and exciting arias, duets (and, in the event, octets) would highlight soloists.

Giorgio and I previously worked together on a production of Richard IIIcommissioned by the Opera of Flanders in 2005. Subsequently, the opera toured in Ghent, Dusseldorf, Eindhoven, Strasbourg, Geneva, and in Turin the next year. For Richard III, I abbreviated Shakespeare’s longest play looking for its most sing-able moments. Then, I composed three big chorus scenes of coronations, which were not in the original play.

When thinking about CO2, I went back to Joseph Haydn’s two great dramatic oratorios, The Creation and The Seasons, for inspiration. Before specifying the disastrous impact of Carbon dioxide emissions, I needed to the wonder and glory of the miraculous design and diversity of our planet, its seasonal changes, and its biological variety. Haydn did something similar by using Biblical texts and James Thomson’s poems.

Ensemble of CO2. Photo courtesy of Teatro alla Scala

Initially, I wanted to divide the piece into twelve sections to represent the months of the year, the Zodiacal signs, and the hours of the day. Within these twelve sections, I would deal with twelve different aspects of the theme, such as Creation; the Kyoto Conference; food miles and supermarkets; CO2 emissions and air travel; tsunamis; hurricanes; the Apocalypse; bio-diversity; and the Garden of Eden—a nod to Haydn’s Creation.

Although thematically satisfying, the twelve sections proved a bit too lengthy and unwieldy. So, I cut my piece to nine scenes on different aspects of climate change with a prologue and an epilogue. The central character David Adamson is a climatologist, sung by baritone Anthony Michaels-Moore, who introduces the project in a rather dry lecture on Global Warming. His lecture is constantly interrupted by trigger words like “creation,” “Kyoto,” “tropical cyclone,” and “Eden.” He also states, “All my life I have wanted to tell the story of an atom of carbon.” We are then taken into outer space, a beach in Thailand, a supermarket, an airport lounge, Eden, and so on.

The frequent interruptions of the lecture are theatricalized with the use of video provided by Tony Award winner Finn Ross, film of Ed Burtynsky’s amazing photographs, and choreography devised by Marco Beriel. Meanwhile, David attempts to discuss sustainability, deep ecology, practical environmentalism, and tropical cyclones. He also discusses the metaphysical and poetic definitions of the Seasons and James Lovelock’s “Gaia Hypothesis,” amongst other things.

In addition, director Robert Carsen and designer Paul Steinberg came up with a device inspired by the Apple Mac computer, which David has at the beginning of the piece. The computer becomes “a stage within a stage” on which all of the sung and danced action of the opera takes place as if it’s on the Internet.

Structurally and textually, I thought of the libretto as a Postmodernist poem where images, ideas, and themes bounce off each other, provoking new trains of thought and generating new imagery. Different languages like Latin, Ancient Greek, Sanskrit, Arabic, English, Russian, and Japanese mirror the global and timeless aspect of the theme. Then, quotations from various sources, such as Shakespeare, James Lovelock, Rachel Carson, and Alfred Russel Wallace along with the Psalms, the Vedic scriptures, the Homeric Hymn to Gaia, and the Kyoto Protocol add layers to the voices in the opera.

Ensemble of CO2. Photo courtesy of Teatro alla Scala.

Once I structured the scenes, the characters came quite easily. For example, an offstage chorus of boys recite Psalm 18: “Caeli enarrant gloriam Dei.” The audience is also present at the beginning of Creation when the four Archangels Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Uriel fly in from the heavens, hovering above a group of four scientists whose texts derive from a variety of twentieth century sources. They first appear when David is talking about the pre-Socratic philosophers Thales, Anaximines, Theophanes, and Heraclitus. Thus, we have an octet of voices, plus a boys’ chorus, singing of the wonder of Creation.

In the airport scene, angry passengers briefly talk on their mobile phones, while David talks to his research assistant about figures and data relating to CO2 emissions from air travel and private jets.

Other characters emerge from the different scenes, including Mrs. Mason whose brother-in-law drowned during the Tsunami of 2004; Thai hotel manager Mr. Changtalay who works on a beach in Phuket; and Adam, Eve, and the Serpent in Eden. Finally, Gaia, the goddess of the Earth, sings her threnody on the disaster Man has caused on the Earth, in the environment, and in the atmosphere.

When David steps forward at the end of the opera, he is in absolute silence as the house lights come up. He speaks the final lines: “If this is not my planet, whose is it? If this is not my responsibility, whose is it? If I am the cause, am I not the cure?” These are some questions I want audiences to leave asking themselves.

Sanctuary 2015

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Enclosure. Photo Mike Bolam

Sanctuary 2015. Noon 26th- Noon 27th September. Murrays Monument, Galloway Forest Dark Skies Park, A712, Nr Newton Stewart. DG8 7BL. A 24 hour public art laboratory experimenting with new ways of using technology to explore darkness, light and place.

“In the future we imagine a need to designate places where we are free from being tracked, traced, and our data mined via our devices. Who will come to such places and what will happen there?” Sanctuary 2015

The Galloway Forest Dark Skies Park is a place within which darkness is protected. Within this remote Park, access to communication networks is limited and at Sanctuary we have extended the notion of darkness to include electronic or digital darkness and created an event that provokes responses to the all-pervading nature of communication technology and electric light. This remote place can be considered a Sanctuary from both light pollution and worldwide connectedness. A temporary escape into digital darkness where we can explore our relationship with all kinds of technology, take control and use it in experimental and creative ways, or disengage with it entirely and create new behaviours, liberated by the knowledge that no-one is looking.

Sanctuary has become a place for new ways of experiencing, exploring and connecting with landscape and place. How can we read the landscape viscerally, visually and conceptually? How do we experience the world through the lens of technological devices and how do they mediate our experiences? Sanctuary is not rejecting the digital age – there are artists creating digital artworks and networks on site – rather it aims to interrogate the meaning, uses and implications of technology and the ownership and agency of the devices and networks that now connect us. And in the realm of dark and light, in this, the International Year of Light, there are experimental artworks that both examine and play with light and its significance across the visible and also the non-visible spectrum.

Sanctuary creates a new public space – one that is created by its participants (both artists and visitors). It is place where new conversations can happen and experiments conducted. This is exemplified by The Dark Outside FM, an annual site specific radio broadcast of previously unheard sound, that has gradually gathered the Sanctuary public laboratory around it. It exists temporarily as a deep part of the environment, then disappears without a trace, deleting its content as it goes.

Other artworks include:

  • Entropy Lure (Graham Rooney and John Wallace) using thermo graphic cameras to capture every visitor’s unique heat signature (something they can never shed)
  • SUMA ( Zoe Irvine and Kuchke) A sound walk with radio transmission, singing and the sounds of the woodland, taking its inspiration from Balkan songs of trees and forests
  • Murmurate (Tim Shaw and Sebastien Piquemall) Incorporating synthesised sounds and field recordings from the immediate surroundings to be processed, organised and performed through a local network of the audiences mobile devices.
  • Nightlight-2 (Unicorn Diagram) a shadow catcher, capturing a multitude of brief moments in time.
  • Eternal Silence (Jamie Clements and Nick Millar) using morse code to beam final messages to the universe in a maximum of 140 characters.

These works and the many more at Sanctuary, involve the audience in investigations of both where we are and who we are. It is part of an ongoing creative exploration of place and environment, a space for new work and conversations, new concepts and synergies.

t: @sanctuarylab

Sanctuary Curators:
Jo Hodges:
Robbie Coleman
The Dark Outside FM Curator:
Stuart McLean:

Photo credit: Mike Bolam

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge Research, Gray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.

Go to EcoArtScotland

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Carbon Neutral Arcola

Arcola is in the running for £12,500 funding towards the expansion and integration of our Carbon Neutral heating and cooling systems. We also hope to install improved control and display systems to better engage our audience with innovations in building management.

Visit the M&S Energy Fund website to vote for our project. We have until 30th September to get as many votes as possible so please vote for us through the M&S Energy Fund website

The Technology

We plan to install innovative sustainable building management – linking our biomass heating and natural ventilation systems to create a carbon neutral system for our theatre and rehearsal spaces. The innovative mechanical and electrical integration, control and communication system will tie together presently unconnected existing renewable energy and energy management systems in order to increase reach, improve useability, maximise carbon savings and effectively communicate the benefits of the system to users and visitors.  Existing systems include:

  • Thermostatically controlled space heating, fired by a waste-wood biomass boiler
  • Thermostatically controlled assisted natural ventilation system which draws coolth from the cellars of the building to cool the auditoria without the need for chillers or large air-handling units.
  • Solar Thermal hot water and space heating to support biomass boiler system, especially for hot water in summer when the boiler is inactive.
  • Solar PV array which powers office equipment and LED lighting via DC Microgrids (a precursor to the Tesla Powerwall)

The systems have been installed piece-meal on very tight budgets and consequently we have not been able to link them or include sufficient displays to communicate the benefits. In the case of the heating system, the pipe network does not extend to some of our community spaces.

We plan to install:

  • Thermostatically controlled space heating: cost-effective radiators, Thermostatic Radiator Valves, piping connected to the 60 kW SOLARFOCUS Pellet and Log Therminator II (already installed)
  • Innovative thermostatically controlled natural ventilation system, uniquely designed by Arup: novel acoustically damped low carbon ventilation and cooling system for theatre spaces utilising coolth from the light well through louvered vents around the building perimeter.

Community benefits of Carbon Neutral Arcola:

  • Greater thermal comfort for Creative Engagement groups, many of whom are elderly: this will be achieved by thermostatic management of spaces through the use of thermostatic radiator valves and system level monitoring and control
  • Demonstration to our local community and visitors of practical, affordable sustainable energy solutions in action – clear explanations of carbon neutral building control, in a welcoming and inclusive space. We welcome 10,000s of visitors a year. We aim to promote sustainable behaviours in everyone who accesses Arcola Theatre through key signage and display systems
  • Greater budget to provide bursaries and production budgets for Creative Engagement groups, through savings on electricity bills

The Sustainable Theatre Practice Treaty

by Ian Garrett

This post originally appeared on Howlround, and is being posted under a under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License(CC BY 4.0). You can find the original post here:

This week on HowlRound, we continue our exploration of Theatre in the Age of Climate Change begun last April with this special series for Climate Change Week NYC. How does our work reflect on and respond to the challenges brought on by a warming climate? How can we participate in the global conversation about what the future should look like, and do so in a way that is both inspiring and artistically rewarding? As the director of the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts, Ian Garrett has been an inspiration for years. He is a pioneer in the field of sustainability and the arts and has been extremely active in that arena, speaking, publishing, organizing conferences, and devising new ways of working. He is also an artist who is not afraid to think big thoughts. —Chantal Bilodeau

I should have had a tale to tell of hardihood, endurance, and courage.—Robert Scott, Antarctic explorer

Imagine a place without war. A place where the environment is fully protected. A place that is dedicated to new discovery and scientific research. That near-utopian ideal is present in Antarctica, where the Antarctic Treaty has insured international cooperation and stewardship for decades. Theatre should also serve this purpose. There are a number of ways in which climate change is being addressed through theatre and the arts. But as Antarctica captures the imagination and shows us what can be done in the most extreme conditions, I propose that we adopt an ambitious agreement modeled on that success to aggressively address the urgency of climate change now. Will you be party to the Sustainable Theatre Practice Treaty?

Many countries claim parts of this icy continent, though these are not universally recognized. There is no government or permanent population of Antarctica, and all claims have been suspended since the adoption of the Antarctic Treaty System in 1959. When the treaty was agreed to, all of Antarctica became “a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science.” The effectiveness and longevity of the Antarctic Treaty System, which includes the original treaty and a number of related agreements, is impressive. However, this seeming utopia may only be possible at the ends of the earth because it is so inhospitable and incapable of supporting anything but the most dedicated research. But it does provide a case study on human cooperation and stewardship, and that should give us hope.

I feel similarly about theatre. Practically, it depends on human cooperation. It creates social dialogue that is a form of stewardship for our communities. Though as a faculty member at a research university who studies the sustainable impacts of theatre at the core of my research, research may not be its main purpose. What I have found is that theatre as a collective activity is often environmentally, socially, and economically positive. It, and other shared arts experiences, are some of the best drivers of a sustainable society. That should also give us hope.

In the course of my research, I have come across a number of commendable certifications, agreements, and plans. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has a checklist for buildings and facilities. The Arts Earth Partnership (AEP) offers a green business certification for small theatres and galleries in Los Angeles. The Broadway Green Alliance offers tips and leadership advice to advocate for green change on the Great White Way and beyond. Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company created the Green Theatre Choice Toolkit,Julie’s Bicycle in London offers the “Industry Green” IG Tools. Recently, I’ve been discussing a new option with some sustainably oriented colleagues to develop something they call the EcoScene pledge for designers. It would ask those taking the pledge to commit to a variety of practical efforts in their practice and to serve as an advocate in their work. They would also use a mark like that of a union or professional association’s designation on their documentation.

These are all great initiatives and opportunities. I recommend you consider them all for your buildings, companies, and studios. These can all contribute to a more sustainable theatrical field and have significant positive results with regard to our contribution to climate change.

What if we thought bigger? Like Antarctica big. Could we model our commitment to sustainable practice in the theatre the way nations have been cooperating since 1959 to conduct their shared relationship with our Southern-most continent?

What are the articles of the treaty? First of all, Antarctica is to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes; military activities are prohibited. The treaty guarantees continued freedom to conduct research. It promotes international cooperation and requires that research findings be made freely available. It also provides that no activities will affect previously asserted territorial claims, and that no new claims can be made. It prohibits nuclear explosions and the disposal of radioactive waste. It provides for inspection to ensure the observance of, and compliance with, the Treaty. And it requires parties to give notice of expeditions; provides for periodic meetings; puts in place a dispute settlement procedure; and a mechanism to amend the Treaty.

Importantly, the Treaty also contains an ambitious environmental protocol. It commits the parties to “comprehensive protection of the Antarctic Environment.” It designates Antarctica as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science.” It sets out the principles for environmental protection. It bans all commercial mineral resource activities. It requires an Environmental Impact Assessment of all activities before they are allowed to go ahead.

Is it foolhardy to think that we can practice theatre as though we’re moving towards utopia? This past June, I attended a talk by Mike Pearson, a professor of Performance Studies at Aberystwyth University and an archaeologist turned site-specific theatre luminary. He has also spent time in Antarctica. In his research, he has considered the impact of changing climate conditions upon performers and audiences. In the presentation, we could consider numerous examples of polar imagination expressed through theatre and performance such as Hugh Broughton Associates, designers of the Halley VI research station; Chris Rapley’s performance of 2071 at The Royal Court, written by Duncan Macmillan and director by Katie Mitchell; and Mariele Neudecker’s scale models of the Halley VI, Some Things Happen All At Once. This work demonstrates how influential that vast and frozen place, and the spirit of inquiry and research it inspires, can be.

It is Lucy + Jorge Orta’s Antarctic work that I feel gets closest to the idealism of Treaty. In 1995 they presented the Antarctica World Passport at the Biennale di Venezia. And in 2007, they traveled to Antarctica to install an Antarctic Village and raise the prismatic Antarctic Flag, a “supranational emblem of human rights.” The flag was late reinstalled at the Southbank Centre in 2012 as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The Antarctica World Passport is a “universal passport for a continent without borders, and the common good of humanity” since “climate change has no borders.” One can sign-up for the passport online and commit:

  • To act in favor of sustainable development through simple, daily acts
  • To defend natural environments under threat, as a global public resource
  • To fight against climate change generated by human activity
  • To support humanitarian actions aiding displaced peoples of the world
  • To share values of peace and equality
  • To impart this charter to future generations

Taking this as inspiration, can we look back to the root of international cooperation and utopian ideals of sustainability to change how we work? To ambitiously address how we make performance? I believe so, and would ask that you be a party to the Sustainable Theatre Practice Treaty, based on the Antarctic Treaty System. Would you be willing to join me in a similar agreement for your theatre practice?

Numerous examples of the work of polar imagination expressed through theatre and performance demonstrates how influential that vast and frozen place, and the spirit of inquiry and research it inspires, can be.

Let us consider that the articles of the Sustainable Theatre Practice Treaty:

  1. stipulate that theatre is to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes; provide a forum for mutual understanding and be created to be inclusive and accessible; prohibit activities that reflect antagonist aggression in symbol or practice;
  2. guarantee continued freedom of artistic expression;
  3. promote international artistic cooperation including the exchange of models and personnel, and require that results and outcomes of this cooperation be made freely available;
  4. set aside potential for disputes between treaty parties by providing that no activities will enhance or diminish previously asserted positions with respect to shared artistic ownership;
  5. prohibit toxic materials and the disposal of harmful waste;
  6. provide for inspection by observers, designated by any party, of studios, theatres, and equipment to ensure the observance of, and compliance with, the Treaty;
  7. require parties to give advance notice of their projects;
  8. provide for the parties to meet periodically to discuss measures to further objectives of the Treaty;
  9.  put in place a procedure and mechanism to modify the Treaty;
  10. commit the parties to the following environmental principles:
    • The protection of the environment shall be a fundamental consideration in the planning and conduct of all projects.
    • To this end:
      • projects shall be planned and conducted so as to limit adverse impacts on the environment and dependent and associated ecosystems, as to avoid:
        1.  adverse effects on climate or weather patterns;
        2. significant adverse effects on air or water quality;
        3. significant changes in the atmospheric, terrestrial (including aquatic), glacial, or marine environments;
        4. detrimental changes in the distribution, abundance, or productivity of populations of species of fauna and flora;
        5. further jeopardy to endangered or threatened species or populations of such species; or
        6. degradation of, or substantial risk to, areas of biological, scientific, historic, aesthetic, or wilderness significance;
      • projects shall be planned and conducted on the basis of their possible impacts on the environment; such judgments shall take account of:
        1. the scope of the project, including its area, duration, and intensity;
        2. the cumulative impacts of the project, both by itself and in combination with other activities;
        3. whether technology and procedures are available to provide for environmentally safe operations;
        4. whether there exists the capacity to monitor key environmental parameters and ecosystem components to identify and provide early warning of any adverse effects of the project and to provide for modification of the project in the light of the results;
      • regular and effective monitoring shall take place to all assessment of the impacts of ongoing activities, including the verification of predicted impacts;
      • regular and effective monitoring shall take place to facilitate early detection of the possible unforeseen effects.
    • Projects shall be planned and conducted so as to accord priority to artistic practice.
    • Projects undertaken pursuant to artistic practice, tourism, and all other governmental and nongovernmental activities for which advance notice is required, including associated logistic activities, shall:
      • take place in a manner consistent with the principles in this Article; and
      • be modified, suspended, or cancelled if they result in, or threaten to result in, impacts upon environment or dependent or associated ecosystems as is inconsistent with these principles.

If you would like to become a party to the Treaty in your practice, and we will include you in future developments.

Launch of the world’s largest climate festival!

Climate is everyone’s business. Join the cultural movement towards a carbon neutral, clean future. We need the negotiations taking place during the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) to succeed and build a sustainable global culture.

ArtCOP21 will connect hundreds of thousands of people to the climate challenge through a extensive global programme of major public art installations, exhibitions, concerts, performances, talks, conferences, workshops, family events and film screenings taking place right across Paris and worldwide. Climate is Culture.

We have over 150 events in 19 countries already signed up – and there are many more to come….. Check out the programme, and if you’re an artist, arts organisation and/or have a climate-related event coming up  register it now.

Only through shared activity and excitement can we make a creative, clean and sustainable future society a reality.


Archipelagos, Fragile Shores, and Orphan Seas: A reflection on climate change and performance

by Caridad Svich

Featured Image: Archipelago, directed by Boris Gafurov, New American Plays Festival Ilkhom Theater of Mark Weil, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 2014.

This post originally appeared on Howlround, and is being posted under a under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License(CC BY 4.0). You can find the original post here:

This week on HowlRound, we continue our exploration of Theatre in the Age of Climate Change begun last April with this special series for Climate Change Week NYC. How does our work reflect on and respond to the challenges brought on by a warming climate? How can we participate in the global conversation about what the future should look like, and do so in a way that is both inspiring and artistically rewarding? I know Caridad Svich as a playwright, translator, editor; as the founder of NoPassport, and most recently, as co-organizer of the Climate Change Theatre Action. I also know her as a formidable force of nature who approaches everything she does with great passion. Today, she shares her thoughts about writing the inescapable reality of climate change. —Chantal Bilodeau

Along the way, a breath and

I am at the airport. I am waiting. It is a surprisingly calm day. No one is rushing. There are actually very few people at the airport. It feels a little eerie. But also rather nice. That is to say— it is nice not to rush about for a change and just be. For a bit.

I am thinking about some plays that I hold dear: Caryl Churchill’s The Skrikerand Far Away; Joanna Lauren’s Three Birds; Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs; María Irene Fornés’ The Danube; Andy Smith’s all that is solid melts into air; August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone; Sam Shepard’s The War in Heaven; Suzan-Lori Parks’ Fucking A.

They all, in one way or another, feel prescient. They all feel as if they are now. They all feel too as if they are teaching us lessons—ambiguous, unanswered lessons—about the past.

I am thinking about what it means when we say we are writing about climate change.

I am thinking about the elements.

I am thinking a lot about water.

Were we all to ask ourselves each and every day how our actions and deeds and words effect the shore of life (the earth’s as well as the one of our fellow human beings), might we be able to offer ways to counter damages done?

Across the sea

Early this summer at Performing Studies International Fluid States North Conference, my play The Orphan Sea received a telematic, trans-continental reading directed by Kevin Brown with participating actors in Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands. The play had originally been commissioned by the University of Missouri-Columbia’s Department of Theatre and staged there in November 2014, also under Brown’s direction. The Orphan Sea is a multi-choral epic poem for the stage. Through the story of Odysseus and Penelope, it examines issues related to crossing borders (physical, geographic, and emotional), migration, climate change, and the isolation and sense of outrage individuals may experience in major metropolitan cities, especially those driven by neoliberal economic values. The play travels from the Middle East to Greece, from the Arctic to the United States, from sections of Africa and Asia to Europe as it charts the journeys of an Odysseus chorus, a Penelope chorus and a chorus of the city. In the piece, the river speaks and so does the road where people travel; statues come to life and even the aural specter of Justin Timberlake makes a disembodied appearance. Written for a cast of nine (minimum) to upwards of twenty, the text is open. Lines may be assigned depending on the number of voices in each chorus and the piece encourages a strong choreographic aesthetic as well as the organic use of mediated elements (mainly video and projection design). Dramaturgically, the piece is a waterscape play. Its structure is intentionally fluid, and designed to mimic, not in a figurative fashion, the ebb and tide, currents and flow of many oceans across the globe. Thus, it is a sea play not only in terms of its title but also its design.

I have been working consciously and less so with what I call waterscape structure for years now as a theatremaker and text-builder. Plays as diverse as 12 Ophelias,The Way of Water, and Prodigal Kiss are crafted as cartographical plays that trace connections among and between land and water—usually positioned, at least from a dramaturgical perspective, in the space between or the one we call “liminal,” although that word has somehow fallen out of favor in literary circles. Some of the plays in my body of work are land-based, and a view of the water is distant, impossible or nonexistent. Other plays rise from water and step on land but keep their connection to the water vital and strong. Others rest in that space between, trying to negotiate how it is we coexist as humans with nature, and what happens when through human-made or other means, the connections are lost, destroyed, or made fragile. In fact, my first play, called Waterfall, was set in a house in New Jersey that was situated next to a toxic waste landfill. Thinking ecologically about theatre and theatremaking has been there from the start for me, and even in plays where the subject matter is not ostensibly about the environment, it does inform how I approach the conception of work, its structure, and how it lives ultimately with an audience.

In some plays I have positioned the work through a negative lens. I have looked at individuals and societies that live in opposition to nature, aggressively so. In other plays, elements of the natural world are thrown into chaos through acts of war and territorial conflict between nation-states. In yet other plays, water levels rise (as they are doing) and threaten to engulf entire communities. But choice of lens notwithstanding, the ethical engagement I have with the material stems by and large from an ecological perspective, which brings us back around to The Orphan Sea and the trilogy of which it is a part: Upon the Fragile Shore andThis Thing of Ours —and a play that preceded it called Archipelago.


Upon the Fragile Shore, produced by CorpOLuz Theatre, directed by Carla Melo, Toronto 2015.

Upon the Fragile Shore, produced by CorpOLuz Theatre, directed by Carla Melo, Toronto 2015.

In Upon the Fragile Shore (which received its Canadian premiere August 2015 as a CorpOLuz production at the SummerWorks Festival in Toronto), a map of nine stories and sixteen characters across eight cities around the world charts through word, image, movement, and song, what it means to stand upon a fragile shore, and how as societies the vulnerable spaces in our lands and in the environment, made so by human hands and natural disaster, expose us to necessary fragility. If a great deal of transnational, geopolitical languages of power are inscribed with words of domination and conquest, what could it mean to reframe the manner in which “power” is uttered and put in play, if instead we lead with the most fragile part(s) of ourselves and societies? This is one of the central questions the play asks, as it traces stories of devastation from international and domestic biochemical and terrorist attacks, coastal erosion in the aftermath of environmental disaster, loss at sea, and tyrannical oppression of human beings. Viewed through the eyes of a witness figure—the one who lives along the Gulf of Mexico and watches the history or eroding lives and land impact the lives of the planet—the play looks at how as humans we have and continue to contribute to the hazards of the environment, partly because of our own hubris or arrogance. Were we all to ask ourselves each and every day how our actions and deeds and words effect the shore of life (the earth’s as well as the one of our fellow human beings), might we be able to offer ways to counter damage(s) done?

Developed in the fall of 2014 through a live theatre and digital film action for human and environmental rights instigated by NoPassport theatre alliance and press,Upon the Fragile Shore began its life as a short piece written for a fall 2013New York Madness event where I was a featured artist. The piece tells the story of a leopard, a prophet, and a woman who meet after a long rain devastates a village, and just before a trail of gasoline may consume them all. The concept, thus, of crafting a story around its fragile point—just before vanishing or discovering a new way to carry on with life—is central to what became the longer play, and also central, increasingly so, to my thinking about how the act of theatremaking occurs. We are at a vanishing point always in the theatre. Plays disappear into the air. By this, I mean the play in performance, and not the text, which is only a score for the eventual play/event. Making work about how human beings approach, ignore, struggle with and imagine vanishing points, and what kind of potentialities for spiritual progress and transformation may exist within areas of emotional, geographic, or physical fragility and its opposite. These vanishing points are not end day scenarios necessarily, but moments when one world shatters and breaks and another is/may be born. These can be moments of profound grief, tragedy, or joy. What is it that some critic once said about theatre: it’s about ceremony(ies)—births, and deaths, and the stuff that happens in between.

Liminal space.

Fluid and transient as water.

From Greenland to the Faroe Islands to Denmark—actors performing via Skype with each other across The Orphan Sea or across cities around the US and abroadUpon the Fragile Shore.

Tragedy after tragedy

A colleague tells me my plays are too sad. “When are you going to write a happy play?”

I tell her I have just written a contemporary comedy.

She says, “yes, but that was a serious comedy. Like Chekhov. No, I mean, a really happy play.”

I have nothing against joy. I carry it with me on a daily basis. I have colleagues, friends, and family who bless me with love. I am actually a fairly cheery person. I am even known to crack a joke or two, albeit a wry one.

But even though I know Aristophanes was making stuff alongside Euripides and even attacked him mercilessly in The Frogs, I side with Euripides. Still. So, maybe I am not yet ready to give up on tragedy.

There’s too much of it. All round.

Tragedies are stacked one on top of the other.

Times of catastrophe.

End times?

Or are we approaching, slouching toward Yeats’ “The Second Coming?”

I think theatre does well with tragedy. And comedy, too. But I think we are in a society that still does not know how to respond to tragedy. We never really were allowed to mourn as a nation when 9/11 occurred. We rushed to war instead.

When children are killed in an elementary school in Sandy Hook, when men and women are killed in a bible study session in a church in Charleston, when men die in Chattanooga, and people die in Lafayette and Aurora and Florida and Missouri and Chicago… and… and…

We need some healing lessons.

Not hectoring lessons.

But spaces in our theatres that allow for us to be with, not at our lives.

We are at them enough.

The job of writing/making is to cut through the noise.

Aren’t plays just plays? Why do we need to classify them as happy or sad?

Can we live instead in the uneasy, uncertain spaces that a work for live performance can offer?

Might we approach tragedy as a form that may move us through darkness into light or at least its consideration?

Who are we after tragedy?

Along the way, another breath and

I am at another airport. A busier one this time. It is an airport of narrow corridors.

Or perhaps I am imagining things.

But it does seem that everyone in the world is passing down these corridors and cannot stop, not for a moment.

Even when they are in place, they are working. They are on. They are on their tablets and phones. Leisure and work times have collapsed. We know this. We have accepted this. The workday is never-ending.

When do we dream?

I am sitting at the gate. The plane will be here soon.

I am thinking of some artists whose works and the way in which they articulate their practice have offered some healing lessons to me during the ups and downs of the writing life, among them Alice Notley, Chris Goode, Andy Field, Anne Carson, Hélène Cixous, bell hooks, Alan Read, Kate Tempest, and José Rivera.

I am thinking about how we talk about plays as being “about” things, when they are not. Not really. Plays are not “about” the things inside them any more than a David Hockney painting of a house at poolside is about what houses at poolsides are like.

Plays are events in space. They are explorations of form across time and space. They are “about” the compositional frames enacted. Who is in the background? Who is in the foreground? Who is in shadow? Who is in light? Who moves and who is still? What is the vibrational space between the site of play and the site of witnessing?

Within these considerations, the theatremaker chooses the materials to illuminate the field of play/the site of engagement. These materials may include characters, specific subject matter, arguments, and so forth. But plays are not thesis statement essays. Not really. They are, at their best, fields of play that map behaviors and signs (linguistic and otherwise). They are, of course, framed events in the same sense that Hockney wants you to regard the house and the pool, the shapes and quality of light. Because it is theatre, it goes a bit beyond that; it frames the event for a public. It puts something in the air and it throws light upon something. It asks the public to engage.

In November 2015, NoPassport, The Arctic Cycle, and Theatre Without Borders will offer a curated selection of short plays to venues worldwide to read and present under the banner Climate Change Theatre Action. Organized in support of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP 21) taking place in Paris November 30–December 11, 2015, and registered with ArtCOP21, this theatre action seeks to engage as many people as possible in keeping the climate change conversation alive.


Climate change is a tragedy many of us have propelled into being.

Consider why and how so many of us live disconnected from a dialogue with nature.

Consider the hubris of thinking that humans are more important than the planet.

The planet will carry on somehow. Without us.

Are you ready?

Do you care?

After we were here

In my play Archipelago, which received a concert staging in a Russian translation by Oxana Aleshina at the 2014 New American Plays Festival at the Ilkhom Theater of Mark Weil in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, under Boris Gafurov’s direction, two lovers travel across time and space, open deserts and gardens made of stone. They find old cities that are not old but have been designed to trick the eye. They find themselves missing who they once were, years before when they first met, as they both face an uncertain future. They live in an archipelago of desire—one that is as indebted to the history(ies) of globalization as one that longs for stable seasonal changes and what used to be called a “normal” climate order. They are a little lost even as they reach toward one another in spectral time. One of them says:

This is the story I rehearse,
The story I will one day tell my children
When they ask me what love is like.

But the story I really want to tell
Is one of rivers
And tin
And boats that sail the currents of the earth
Without forgiveness,
Boats of reason and distress,
That carry within them little tiny bits of our souls
And ask us to surrender them
At any moment
Without as much as a single coin in exchange.

These boats, I whisper in the story I will tell no one,
Line our backs with stars
And demand that we give up everything
To catch a glimpse of our beloved again.

In Archipelago, the sea is already orphaned, the shore is ever fragile, tragedy has come and gone, and the changes in the climate are what the two lovers live with, because it haunts their every gesture and action. Even their shared memory of water.

Were the two lovers ever here?

There is nothing now but sky and land.

They remember machines that cut through the earth.

They remember being Nietzsche-like supermen in the middle of what could have been Los Angeles once. Or was it Paris?

They want the objects in their memory to be reliable and true, but they know they are not.

They have lived through histories of forgetting.

But know they were here, because they took a picture of themselves once.

Blued Trees Art Fights back!

Blued Trees is a multi-disciplinary art project, conceived as a single, intercontinental sculpture, organized as a symphony and linking a series of 1/3 mile sites in the path of projected natural gas pipelines and pipeline expansions. class=”aBn” tabindex=”0″ data-term=”goog_1606134766″> class=”aQJ”>October 4, 2015 a series of new installation sites will launch the first movement of this symphony. We are fundraising separately  class=”il”>to support the artwork and the legal process.
Please contribute and share:

Crowdfunding to support the artmaking can be accessed here:

Crowdfunding for the legal aspects of the work can be accessed here:

Read more here:


Track progress of the Blued Trees sites here:

Read a tweet from Greenpeace:

A history of the project can be read here:

An interview with the artist can be read here: class=”il”>to-stop-a-pipeline/

Overture: June 21, 2015 Completed work can be seen here:

First movement: October 4, 2015 work-in-progress can be seen here:

Second movement: TBA
Third movement: TBA
Coda: TBA

Instructions to paint one tree to participate as part of the Greek Chorus are here:

Instructions to paint a full measure are here: