Performance, Video & Ritual in the Era of Climate Change

Given the monumental devastation brought on by global climate change, as an artist I feel the urgency to be vigilant, a warrior and, despite our dystopian present and the probability of a worse dystopian future, courageous enough to hope. Last year I found myself in a state of veritable despair. I wondered,”How can I make an impact on something so much larger than me?” I was in the midst of making my performance/video piece BUNNY GIRL, shooting from the gut, with no script nor understanding of where the piece was going. Towards the end, however, cathartically the piece revealed itself and gave me my answer. I found a new focus in my work, drawing from a side of myself that I used to hide from the art world, the suppression of which has played into the patriarchal structure contributing to this global mess we’re in… BUNNY GIRL is driven by the crises state of our biosphere. In it, I play a Playboy Bunny/animal of the same name traversing

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A Year in Theatrical Review, Featuring Climate Change

As this year sprints to a close, I’ve been thinking back on what all has happened – in the world, the country, the city I live in. And then I have to take a breath. Slowing it down in my mind, I reflect on the outside world: the fears, the confusion, the urgency. Then I reflect on the experiences I’ve had inside a theatre, and how so many of those experiences drew together events and questions from the world at large, putting them into conversation with theatre audiences. Most of the plays that I’ve seen are not about the planet’s climate. The plays that I’m reflecting on inspire me to address climate change more intersectionally, using tactics that reach audiences not only on environmental questions, but also around political and cultural considerations. What follows is not an exhaustive list, nor a series of critical reviews, but rather some standout theatrical experiences of the past year, and how they are fueling

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Communicating Climate Change in the Small

In 2005, environmentalist and journalist Bill McKibben declared the need for an infusion of art in discussions of climate change, to help us “know about it,” to have climate change “[register] in our gut”, become “part of our culture”, and to help sort out what climate change means. #OurChangingClimate is a digital humanities and participatory design project that encourages diverse communities to do just that: to observe and critique their everyday environment through the lens of climate change, and to share those experiences through social media. It represents an effort to re-focus the conversation on climate change from global-scaled environmental impacts to one that recognizes the importance of the personal and everyday ways in which community members experience these impacts. Too often, climate change is defined in the media as an enormous and complex problem accompanied with images of melting ice caps, weather-related disasters, and mangy looking polar bears; the resultant response is a popular belief that only climate scientists

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Embracing the Vulnerability of Others

Marte Røyeng is a singer/songwriter based in Oslo, Norway. I met her on a trip to Norway a few years ago where, at the time, she had just finished creating a musical with at-risk youth that dealt with aspects climate change. I have been following her work from a distance since then, always delighted to listen to her haunting and richly textured songs. A gifted musician who plays mandolin, piano, guitar and banjo, Marte has performed in concert venues, cafés and smaller festivals in Oslo and as far north as Lofoten. Here, she tells us what drives her, why urgency must be accompanied with compassion, and why embracing the vulnerability of others is a source of hope. What inspires you? I often find inspiration in descriptions of a life that is different and more extreme than mine. When I feel like a stranger to what I am listening to, reading, or seeing, I feel the need to respond, and that response is usually a piece of music,

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The Nature of Man

Madmen and Dreamers is a progressive rock band who writes, records, and performs original rock operas. Our first project, The Children of Children, enjoyed a limited run at the Bleecker Street Theater in New York City following its regional tour. The band, founded by Christine Hull and me, is raising funds for the tour of its new project, a climate change rock opera called The Nature of Man, written by Mario Renes, Christine, and me. While we were touring The Children of Children, Mario, Chris and I began to talk about the next project. The environment was the obvious choice, but which aspect of climate change should we focus on? As writers are universally cruel to their characters we started tossing around worst case scenarios. It didn’t take long to settle on water: the lynchpin of climate change and flash point of fracking and pollution. But… how to make this huge issue accessible to the audience? While pondering that, Chris and I were

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The Making of “Concert Climat:” A Tale of Words and Music

Revelations don’t come very often, but when they do your head is never quite the same. In the fall of 2014, a revelation came to me in the form of Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything. It confirmed what I suspected to be true about climate change, which is that no attempt to deal with it can succeed without challenging the economic system that created the problem and brought us to where we are today. Science, politics, economics, culture all had to be considered at once if there were any hope of confronting this potential apocalyse. Her thesis is logically and brilliantly argued, and a pleasure to read. It reminded me of two other books, among many I’ve read over the past decade, which are revelations in their own right. Whereas Ms Klein’s book considers climate change through an economic and political lens, Bill McKibben’s Eaarth examines it from a cultural orientation, and Dr James Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren

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