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.
This ground-breaking collection of essays focuses on how theatre, dance, and other forms of performance are helping to transform our ecological values. Leading scholars and practitioners explore the ways that familiar and new works of theatre and dance can help us recognize our reciprocal relationship with the natural world and how performance helps us understand the way our bodies are integrally connected to the land. They also explore how environmentalists use performance as a form of protest; how performance illuminates our relationships with animals as autonomous creatures and artistic symbols; and how performance can help humans re-define our place in the larger ecological community.
CSPA Director Ian Garrett contributed a chapter about the carbon footprint of theatrical production.
Since their first American Society for The Theatre Research (ASTR) Working Group session at the 2010 conference in Seattle, the Performance and Ecology Working Group has spawned symposia, anthologies, and publications. Foremost among those is a new volume that grew out of the 2010 session: Readings in Performance and Ecology, eds., Wendy Arons and Theresa J. May (Palgrave 2012). The Working Group has continued valuable research on numerous fronts, including “Earth Matters on Stage” conference at Carnegie Mellon University (2012) and “Staging Sustainability” at York University (2011).
“The rising tide of this focused research indicate not only a growing concern and mounting artistic will in the realm of ecological sensibility, but also faith in the imagination as a critical aspect of our individual and collective ecological identities.”
This year, as part of ASTR’s “Theatrical Histories” focus, they turn their attention to trans-cultural, trans-national, and trans-species performance in anticipation of a second volume of ecocritical writings on theatre and performance. The questions for the upcoming 2012 Working Group session, that will take place November 1st.- 4th 2012 include:
How do transcultural and transnational performances re-map our understanding of what May has called “ecodramaturgy”?
What constitutes “theatre of species” (Chaudhuri) and how might these trans-species performances rearrange or reinterpret understandings of representation?
How do the material characteristics of artistic sites condition the aesthetics of the work produced?
What kinds of geological and geographical histories emerge alongside socio-cultural storytelling?
How do intersecting histories – indigenous, place-based, community-driven – play out on stage in performance?
How do ecological transitions, transmigrations, transmutations, transformations and transference shape artistic practice and meaning-making in the theatre?
Other questions, approaches and topics that clearly address trans-national, trans-cultural, trans-species topics in performance.
Please send Abstracts as word attachments to both Working Group conveners below by May 31, 2012:
Theresa May, University of Oregon ( tmay33 [at] uoregon [dot] edu)
Nelson Gray, University of Victoria ( ncgray [at] uvic [dot] ca)
Cultura21 is a transversal, translocal network, constituted of an international level grounded in several Cultura21 organizations around the world.
Cultura21′s international network, launched in April 2007, offers the online and offline platform for exchanges and mutual learning among its members.
The activities of Cultura21 at the international level are coordinated by a team representing the different Cultura21 organizations worldwide, and currently constituted of:
– Sacha Kagan (based in Lüneburg, Germany) and Rana Öztürk (based in Berlin, Germany)
– Oleg Koefoed and Kajsa Paludan (both based in Copenhagen, Denmark)
– Hans Dieleman (based in Mexico-City, Mexico)
– Francesca Cozzolino and David Knaute (both based in Paris, France)
Cultura21 is not only an informal network. Its strength and vitality relies upon the activities of several organizations around the world which are sharing the vision and mission of Cultura21
At the University of Oregon’s Miller Theatre Complex, May 24-June 3, 2012
CALL FOR SCRIPTS
First place Award: $1,000 and workshop production
Second place Award: $500 and workshop production
Honorable mentions: public staged reading
The Guidelines for Playwrights below describe the focus of the Festival. Please read.The Deadline for Submissions is July 1, 2011.
The mission of EMOS’ Ecodrama Playwrights Festival is to call forth and foster new dramatic works that respond to the ecological crisis, and that explore new possibilities of being in relationship with the more-than-human world. The Festival is ten days of readings, workshop performance/s, and discussions of the scripts that are finalists in the Playwrights’ Contest. Some readings and workshops will be followed by facilitated talkbacks with the playwrights. In addition, a symposium on the second weekend of the Festival includes speakers, panels and discussions that will advance scholarship in the area of arts and ecology, and help foster development of new works. The call for proposals for scholars and those wishing to participate in the Symposium can be found at www.uoregon.edu/~ecodrama.
The EMOS award includes a workshop production. The winning plays will be chosen by a panel of distinguished theatre artists from the USA and Canada. Past judges have included:
Robert Schenkkan, Playwright, winner of 1990 Pulitzer Prize
Martha Lavey, Artistic Director, Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago, IL
José Cruz González, Playwright, SCR Hispanic Playwrights Project; faculty Cal State LA
Ellen McLaughlin, Playwright, NY
Timothy Bond, Artistic Director Syracuse Stage, NY
Olga Sanchez, Artistic Director, Teatro Milagro, Portland, OR
Diane Glancy, Playwright, Native Voices Award, faculty Macallister College
Marie Clements, Playwright, British Columbia
Guidelines for Playwrights
What kind of theatre comes to mind when you hear “ecodrama”? Political plays that advocate for environmentalism, or educational theatre about recycling? While these examples would fit, please let your imagination soar WAY beyond them!
Ecodrama stages the reciprocal connection between humans and the more-than-human world. It encompasses not only works that take environmental issues as their topic, hoping to raise consciousness or press for change, but also work that explores the relation of a “sense of place” to identity and community.
Help us create an inclusive ecodrama that illuminates the complex connection between people and place, an ecodrama that makes us all more aware of our ecological identities as a people and communities; ecodrama that brings focus to an ecological concerns of a particular place, or that takes writer and audience to a deeper exploration of issue that may not be easily resolved.
While many plays might be open to an ecological interpretation, others might be called “ecodrama,” Examples are diverse in form and topic: Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, in which the town’s waters have become polluted and a lone whistle blower clashes with powerful vested interests; Schenkkan’s The Kentucky Cycle, the epic tale of a land and its people – Indigenous, European, African – over seven generations; August Wilson’s Two Trains Running that bears witness to the loss of inner city sustainability; Moraga’s Heroes and Saints, about the embodied impact of industrial agriculture; Marie Clements’ Burning Vision, which documents the impact of Canadian uranium mining on first nations communities and land; Giljour’s Alligator Tales, a one-woman play by a Louisiana Cajun native about her relationship to her neighbors, the weather, the oil rigs off the coast and the alligators on her porch; Norman’s Secret Garden in which nature consoles a child’s grief; Albee’s The Goat, or who is Sylvia, that confounds human species taboos.
Winner of the 2004 EMOS Festival ~ Odin’s Horse, by Chicago playwright Rob Koon, in which a writer learns something about integrity from a tree sitter and a lumber company executive, went on to premier in Chicago in 2006.
Winner of the 2009 EMOS Festival – Song of Extinction, by Los Angeles playwright EM Lewis, in which a musically talented teen and his father whose mother/wife is dying come to understand the deeper meanings of “extinction” from a Cambodian science teacher. Song of Extinction premiered in Los Angeles and was recently published by Samuel French.
For us at EMOS, the central questions are” “when we leave the theater are things around us more alive? do we listen better, have a deeper or more complex sense of our own ecological identity?”
We need your voice, so does the theatre, so does our world. Imagine! Write! Submit!
We are looking for plays that do one or more of the following:
Put an ecological issue or environmental event/crisis at the center of the dramatic action or theme of the play.
Expose and illuminate issues of environmental justice.
Explore the relationship between sustainability, community and cultural diversity.
Interpret “community” to include our ecological community, and/or give voice or “character” to the land, or elements of the land.
Theatrically explore the connection between people and place, human and non-human, and/or between culture and nature.
Grow out of the playwright’s personal relationship to the land and the ecology of a specific place.
Theatrically examine the reciprocal relationship between human, animal and plant communities.
Celebrate the joy of the ecological world in which humans participate.
Offer an imagined world view that illuminates our ecological condition or reflects on the ecological crisis from a unique cultural or philosophical perspective.
Critique or satirizes patterns of exploitation, consumption, or other ingrained values that are ecologically unsustainable.
Are written specifically to be performed in an unorthodox venue such as a natural or environmental setting, and for which that setting is a not merely a backdrop, but an integral part of the intention of the play.
We are looking for full-length plays that are written primarily in English (no ten-minute plays please; one-act plays are okay if 30+ minutes in length). Submitted plays should address the thematic guidelines as listed above.
All submissions should include a cover page with:
Two blind copies of the FIRST 30 PAGES OF THE SCRIPT ONLY. Please do not put the author’s name on the script, only on the title page.
A synopsis of the play and cast requirements.
Submissions must be received by July 1, 2011 to:
EMOS Festival/Theresa May, Artistic Director
207 Villard Hall, Theatre Arts
University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403
Deadline: July 1, 2011
Early submission encouraged. / No electronic submissions please.
After reading the first 30 pages of all submitted plays, we will evaluate the submissions to reduce the size of the pool. We will then request two full paper copies be sent to us by Sept. 15, 2011. Winners will be selected from this smaller pool.
It goes without saying that the travel associated with our artist endeavors is not the most sustainable. I’ve been to so many conferences this last year, mostly traveling by plane. Next week I’m off to Europe where I’ll be staying in Copenhagen for COP15 and Wooloo.org‘s New Life Festival, but I’m also headed to London for the Future Arcola Launch and, it’s looking like Prague as well, to check in with a project for the next PQ in June of 2011.
I personally love traveling. I feel guilty, yes, but I love going places. I also feel there is no substitute for in-person discussions. The spontaneity and intimacy of direct contact is important and this is easiest to accommodate face-to-face and in the flesh. And, even when it’s not about having a one-on-one, there is also that just showing up most of the time is a big deal. I maintain that our “success” with the CSPA is due to persistence and “showing up”.
With the ubiquity of broadband connections, more and more people seem to be relying on video conference/chat technology to get other busy, high profile, greener guests to be able to be in two spaces at the same time. And, as it tends to shake out, the resident technophile/ show technologist, I get the pleasure of making a lot of them work.
Last night, at California Institute of the Arts I set up a video chat audition for guest artists that will be in residency at REDCAT, CalArt’s downtown LA space. The Artists of Invasion from the Chicken Planet, are based in New York and, though of no sustainable intention, weren’t going to fly out to audition some of our actors to use in their residency for two hours.
The day before, we had tested the connection. We used the same computer with the same software on the same network (hardwired into the wall) that we’d use the next day. We tried Skype, which was too choppy, garbled and had a couple seconds delay that made it less than ideal. We then switched to iChat with AOL Instant Messenger accounts and after realizing another computer being connected was preventing a decent video link, it proved the smoothest and most immediate.
So last night, when we moved the computer into the room that we would be conducting the auditions in, we configured the machine the same way, but were not able to make a connection on iChat. Skype had the same issues. At the prompting of a student director who was assisting, we tried Gtalk Video chat. It ended up working immediately and with excellent quality.
Earlier in the year, at Earth Matters on Stage (EMOS), when Moe Beitiks had tried to link up Brent Bucknum to present his bio-remidative work via video chat, we tried ooVoo, which we gave up on in favor of iChat again. We had almost just given up, but I only thought to use iChar from the decent chats I had experienced with my brother-in-law who was living in Edinburgh at the time. Also at EMOS we had a video conference in the University of Oregon library with a panel in London arranged by the Ashden Directory, which used their dedicated video conferencing package.
In both situations the video wasn’t great, but we could sort of communicate. The Ashden Session involved each end of the discussion/video conference going into another room to watch a video and then coming back to discuss together. But there was lag and the video wasn’t particularly clear. The Brent Bucknam session was not bad, but very one-way. For Green Day at LDI, the audio was great, but in one session, with Seema Sueeko from Mo’olelo Performing Arts, the video was minutes behind the audio connection.
Having now had extensive experience with video conferencing in less than ideal situations, I do long for the day when we’ll be able to turn on whatever client we’re using to video chat and it works smoothly and immediately, let alone with high resolution. But, that day isn’t particularly close. There are a lot of variables in the way of making that happen. Network connections, equipment, client servers, client and local network traffic, sunspots, radio waves and the phases of the moon. Even when we tried to eliminate as many of those variables in Eugene as possible, it still didn’t work ideally. Or, what was ideally was not enough to convince.
Will our broadband video connections be able to save us the footprint of air travel for conferences and internationally collaborative meetings of the mind? Not yet. There might be some expensive corporate system out there, but we lowly green artists aren’t going to hold our breath waiting for that. Oprah’s skype seems to work fine, but I’ve never had such luck, so I leave that package just to replace my need for international phone calls.
I’d still rather sit and talk to you, especially when we aren’t both staring at our monitors in our Pajamas.
Also yesterday, Enci Box of Rebel Without a Car Productions came to speak to my and Leslie Tamaribuchi’s class, Sustainability Seminar. She can to talk about producing a short film as sustainably as possible. This included not using cars and transporting everything by bike with the help of the LA Greensters (green teamsters). She made the trip from East Hollywood, in the center of Los Angeles, to the edge of the county, where CalArts resides in Valencia, without a car. She came up on a Metrolink commuter train, biking from the station to campus. She and I had worked out the options for getting there and she had the time to dedicate to coming up. Also, she was lucky to had met a guy who regularly made that journey to visit his girlfriend at CalArts and could relay the benefit of his experience. She then went back home, via bike. all roughly 30 miles of the trip. Coming up to CalArts, it took 2 hours. Returning was supposedly going to be one and a half hours. All for a 45 minute presentation.
I suppose we could have had her “skype” in (even if we don’t typically end up on skype), but having her there in-person was a much greater thrill and much more in the moment for the students and for her. Instead it took dedication to not leaving a footprint, and finding alternatives to get to the class. I’m very much indebted to Enci for making the journey, which some might say was epic, to present for a fraction of that travel time. But, I think it far surpassed our alternatives.
Friday morning at Earth Matters on Stage a small group of us piled into the video conferencing room in the Knight Library at University of Oregon to have a conversation with our interested counterparts in the UK. Our second, but certainly more ambitious, video conference of the day, it harkens back to the discussion surrounding travel, the arts and conferences that has been come up at the RSA here (also to be seen in our archives as part of our feed syndication).
From the Ashden Directory Blog:
Our DVD contribution to Earth Matters On Stage is now online. The interviewees address the question: ‘What Can Be Asked? What Can Be Shown? British Theatre in the Time of Climate Instability.’ (The interviews can also be watched individually.)
Quoting Rilke, Dan Gretton considers the value of quickening the pace of artistic response and cautions against the narcissism of frenzy.
Clare Patey, artist and curator
responds to Dan Gretton’s question, ‘Can you talk about the role that slowing down and reflectivity plays, both in your creative process and your interaction with your audiences?’ watch here
João André da Rocha
João André da Rocha, performer, producer, People’s Palace Projects and Nós do Morro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
responds to Clare Patey’s question, ‘How can we reunite culture and agriculture through performance?’ A transcript is here watch here
Wallace Heim, co-editor Ashden Directory, academic
responds to Paul Heritage’s question, ‘How can we listen to, see, feel and learn from those who are talked about rather than those who are talking in the great climate change debate?’ watch here
Mojisola Adebayo, artist, theatre-maker
responds to Wallace Heim’s question, ‘What would you keep from theatre and performance practice and what needs to change in response to climate instability?’ watch here
The film is edited by Adam Clarke and directed by Wallace Heim.
‘What can be asked? What can be shown? British theatre and performance in the age of climate instabilit
Right now, where the Hope would be a big black box is all full up with Set. The floor is painted in a curling desert-river pattern. Upstage is a forest of recycled wooden planks and juttings, a kind of grandpa’s-attic bamboo. In one corner is a platform with puzzle-piece innards: old bedposts, chairs and plywood fold over each other in a hefty collage.
It’s all for the stagings of the Festival’s top two prize-winning plays: Song of Extinction and Atomic Farmgirl. But what was intended to represent a Bolivian forest and an American farm has come to represent the EMOS festival itself, both literally and figuratively: the set was constructed with recycled materials.
Today’s sessions were sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts. Led by Ian Garrett, they included presentations by Steve Mital, University of Oregon’s Director of Sustainability, PhD candidate (and EMOS Production Manager) Damond Morris, several eco-conscious designers, and several pioneers of a Sustainable Dramaturgy program at CalArts.
At this point: it’s day seven. Everyone in the room knows each other, at least by sight. We’re calling each other out in the audience: could you talk about your experience with . . . what’s your perspective on . . . and what begins as a formal presentation becomes a group conversation quickly and easily.
Inspired by Mike Lawler, here are a few questions asked in the course of the day (some got answered, some did not):
What is a “sustainable university”?
What is the impact of a theatrical lighting system?
Where in this stream can we reduce our waste?
What are the next steps in expanding/refining sustainable pedagogy?
How do we reframe our relationship to resources?
How can we implement what we believe in the art we create?
If your curiosity is piqued, I’d encourage you to visit the CSPA’s wiki for tools and nuggets of information. As to the rest, I leave you with Morris’ Five D’s of Design for Environment:
Design for Dissasembly. Design for Recyclability. Design for Disposability. Design for Reusability. Design for Remanufacture.
See you on the other side of a recycled-wooden forest.
It’s easy to get all cranial on the whole planet/culture relationship. It is, in fact, kind of scary not to. Start learning with your body and not your brain, and well, that’s a one-way ticket to . . . this conference. Hem. Earth Matters On Stage. On the stage, bucko, not just in your brain. You better get moving.
For the first weekend here I was a part of the Art Culture Nature Working Group. Ten fellows were selected to lead half-hour workshops exploring the relationship between our craft and our planet. We were essentially encouraged to use the group as a brain trust– but more often than not, we relied on our bodies.
As a group, we moved. We formed sculptures about place, we followed impulses and rolled around on the grass. We took pictures of our surroundings, we worked with soil. All of this wildness took place under the guidance of the workshop leader (and the extreme limitations of time). We looked very silly sometimes, but learned a lot about process and structure.
Later in the week came a workshop about labyrinths, led by Paul Bindel and Justin Simms. I learned that labyrinths are used most commonly not in pursuit of bullheaded monsters, or for escaping Jack Nicholson, but as meditative tools.
There are labyrinths everywhere: 60 listed in Massachusetts alone. Their curling series of lines gives visitors a form in which to get lost, to walk through while their minds drift. It’s a way to pay penance, to build serenity. It’s a task for your body that lets your brain go. Just follow the lines.
As a group we went out to a grove nearby the University of Oregon and built a labyrinth with wood gathered nearby. When it was done– spiraling sticky-sticks winding paths through the tiny trees– we each walked it. You could hear branches cracking and flutes playing and folks chatting as you wove your way around and around and around. A great task for the body, a great chance to digest all the conference info and just go, go, go.
“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.”