There was no way I wasn't posting this.
As we Atelier students walk off into the sunset (Sophie and Carolyn will take the route through the FitzRandolph Gate--congrats!), we will leave this blog, and this class, with fond memories. The Lewis Center asked us to do a write-up of our experiences in ATL/ENV/THR 496.
This is excerpted from what Erin had to say. The emphasis is all mine:
I expected to be involved in the production as a consultant to its effectiveness, someone evaluating the art for its scientific (i.e., persuasive and environmental) merit, and in that respect my expectations were not met – though I realize now that, in some hypothetical universe in which they were met, the play would have been essentially finished at the beginning of the semester, thus (for better, worse, or neither in particular) exposing the Atelier’s students to a different phase of the playwriting process. Instead, I informed the themes of conservation psychology that ran through the play itself by contributing dramaturgy and feedback on the script, in addition to throwing my environmental and ecological knowledge into the pot of various class collaborations and discussions. At the outset I somehow missed that conservation psychology was not the means to the end of the play and its effect on the viewer: it was part of the end itself, part of the play’s texture meant for the audience to consciously confront and consider. When I think about theater’s audience – probably consisting largely of that huge chunk of Americans who are environmentally conscious in theory, but not so much in practice – I realize this is a better approach, not just artistically, but scientifically, too. The more the artist can get the audience thinking deeply about a subject – consciously, deliberatively, as one would contemplate a theme in a piece of art – the more likely that subject is to penetrate to the core of that person, not just stick around for a few fleeting moments before wafting away. Theatergoers, generally speaking, are thoughtful people. So my expectations on this count were happily left unmet and, through learning and doing, exceeded.
From my response:
I would characterize the first few weeks of the course as my environmental boot camp: I got up to speed on what we were talking about, and I was given a few odd research assignments (getting permission to use the YouTube video of the snakehead fish that was ultimately used in the performance was definitely an early highlight of my research). When rehearsals rolled around, and I got to go into New York...I finally felt as if I had a sense of what it was I was doing, and I felt very useful doing it. Learning about the environment didn’t hurt, either. It’s amazing how much a twelve-week class (plus rehearsals) can get under your skin.
So there we have it. If over the next months we come across something that needs to be on this blog, we will add it. Until then: thank you.
Two links from KC:
2) And from the always hilarious Hark! A Vagrant.
Courtesy of KC, a retrospective on 40 years of Earth Day:
But some environmentalists who remember the first Earth Day -- and the political will that was so palpable then – say they wonder if those individual changes will be enough, considering the massive challenges facing the planet on this Earth Day.
Read more here.
My (relatively) new-found fascination with snakeheads is now shared by The New York Times.
Rachel just sent me an e-mail with a link to this article (headed by a photo of a snakehead and a guy who looks eerily like Hugh Laurie).
Sure, you could argue that we humans have abused nature far more than nature has abused us. You could also argue that these portentous nature shows are merely playing on the secret desire we all have to feel that there is still some danger, some life-or-death excitement, left in this sterilized, seat-belted, stay-on-marked-trails world.
But while you’re making these arguments, a bear may be breaking into your garage, your neighbor’s pet boa is probably making its way into your closet, and a flatworm could be laying eggs in your blood vessels. So sure, on Earth Day, all hail nature for its beauty and wonder. But remember that, as that volcano in Iceland reminds us, it’s also violent, and hungry. Very hungry.
Blog-lag was probably bound to happen once the performances were over. Our two remaining classes will be spent in the following fashion:
1) Having a picnic.
2) Giving our final project presentations.
Said final projects are in varying stages of research at the moment. By which I mean, instead of actually working on it, I recently found myself surfing the New York Times (as per usual and my program bio) and came across this gem:
Some suggestions are more substantive than others. I will let you, fair blog readers, draw your own conclusions, but, at least for me, watching "Walden: The Ballad of Thoreau" won't be the only thing I do this Earth Day. Princetonians, at least, can sign up here and pledge not to waste any food tomorrow.
Here we are in the break between the two shows, during which I grab dinner, wait for the 6:00 reception, and do my blogging duty, especially in light of the recent shout-out we received during the matinee talk-back. (Hello, new readers!) Other items of note from the talk-back: Steve conducted the entire thing with the lemur (which received a longer introduction, perhaps, than the rest of the participants) in his lap, Michael explained how our class's overwhelming and sometimes contradictory statistics and notes on "average Americans' views on climate change" suggested a tango beat, and a gentleman in the audience recalled how he authored a paper on aerospace technology in the late 70s on how technology could predict the Earth's capacity, and what to do to avoid overusing our resources. No one cared to implement his suggestions, he said, and he saw some of the same frustration in some characters in the play.
Audience members seemed curious to learn what happens next. So are we all, I believe. I can only answer for the next four hours: reception, 7:30 show, and then...who knows?
Carolyn's Big Brother vibe here is not very indicative of her role in the show, but I still think it's pretty darn cool.
Michael (who we are now calling Schubert to avoid confusion) and Andrea have discovered the magic of charismatic not-so-megafauna.
In other news, lights and projections have been added to the majority of Act I. The camera-trap picture of the jaguar gives me the chills, especially projected and on a large screen above the stage. Not all megafauna are as cuddly as the lemur.
Today I will be liveblogging rehearsal for The Great Immensity. As the student dramaturg (and as someone who decided halfway through that going paper-free and reading the script on her laptop was the way to go), I may frequently be found in some corner or another, connected to (or eyeing up) a power source, and typing away. So, at least for today, all suspicions may be allayed. Here you have the result of said typing. I was not, in fact, working on my magnum opus (tentative title: The World's Largest Indoor Buddha). I was, instead, lovingly recording every hilarious moment, trial, tribulation, or lemur-sighting.
So here we go.
No, rehearsal has not yet started. Yes, I am still in my pajamas, awaiting Princeton's brunch hours. Why these excruciatingly private details? Texture, baby, texture.
Anyway, my mother has my back, apparently. I woke up this morning to find a link to a Paul Krugman New York Times article entitled Building a Green Economy sitting in my inbox. The first paragraph could easily have come out of this play.
If you listen to climate scientists — and despite the relentless campaign to discredit their work, you should — it is long past time to do something about emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. If we continue with business as usual, they say, we are facing a rise in global temperatures that will be little short of apocalyptic. And to avoid that apocalypse, we have to wean our economy from the use of fossil fuels, coal above all.
The article goes on for ten pages. I'll probably read it paragraph by paragraph throughout the day. For now: clothes!
Lemur sightings: holding steady at 1 (sitting on the corner of a table)
Student assistant director Sophie and I have already watched Monty Python's Semaphore Wuthering Heights.
Music director Andrea is actually accomplishing something, running through "Sloth With A Moth" with Dan (aka Marcos, Charlie, Boni). I know nothing about music, and am very impressed as a result.
Steve seizes the lemur. It's go time.
(For the benefit of tomorrow's class, I am happy to report that the hats are gone from the bulletin board inside the Berlind rehearsal room.)
Sophie loves blueberries (she has stolen several from the dining hall). She wants that on record.
Act II blocking continues, with songs included. (Striptease optional.)
First ten minute break of the day--people rush out the door to the WaWa. I'm not feeling New Jersey enough at the moment.
And we're back. During the break, Steve introduced Sophie and I, as well as Emily (who plays Allie and Chantal) and Catherine (Stage Manager), to Autotune the News. The Katie Couric segment is surprisingly relevant!
Also, the lemur has returned to the table corner, and is gazing balefully in Catherine's direction. More updates as they occur.
I've been working on making script changes and pasting in the song lyrics, but I took a break with Paul Krugman:
This is an article on climate economics, not climate science. But before we get to the economics, it’s worth establishing three things about the state of the scientific debate.
The first is that the planet is indeed warming. Weather fluctuates, and as a consequence it’s easy enough to point to an unusually warm year in the recent past, note that it’s cooler now and claim, “See, the planet is getting cooler, not warmer!” But if you look at the evidence the right way — taking averages over periods long enough to smooth out the fluctuations — the upward trend is unmistakable: each successive decade since the 1970s has been warmer than the one before.
Second, climate models predicted this well in advance, even getting the magnitude of the temperature rise roughly right. While it’s relatively easy to cook up an analysis that matches known data, it is much harder to create a model that accurately forecasts the future. So the fact that climate modelers more than 20 years ago successfully predicted the subsequent global warming gives them enormous credibility. [...]
And this brings me to my third point: models based on this research indicate that if we continue adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere as we have, we will eventually face drastic changes in the climate. Let’s be clear. We’re not talking about a few more hot days in the summer and a bit less snow in the winter; we’re talking about massively disruptive events, like the transformation of the Southwestern United States into a permanent dust bowl over the next few decades.
Unrelatedly, I now think, thanks to a brief exchange between Steve, Catherine, and Sophie, that the next Triangle Show should be about Mounties. Possibly Mounties dressed in gold lamé. Andrea, take note. A sexy Mountie kick-line has just been placed on my bucket list.
For a moment, the lemur was on Steve's head. Things have improved since then, and we're making serious progress on blocking the very last (!) scene.
...and then we had a Real Housewives of New Jersey moment. But not even physical comedy/inside joke interludes can phase this cast.
Trey (Ship Spotter, Rob, Dr. Medvedkov, Emmett) is working with Michael, Andrea, and the musicians (there's a cello!) on the last song, "The Next Forever." I think I have a new favorite song. And I also think that if anyone in the audience leaves this play smiling they have no heart.
We're back. Right off the bat, I was asked to proofread my bio for the program. It wasn't as dumb as I remember it being.
The run-through for the designers is about to begin.
Carolyn is still working on her thesis in her spare moments.
The lemur is lying in wait.
As "There But Not There" drew to a close, the lights lowered themselves.
But then it disappears from view way out there in the deep.
It's there but then it isn't there.
It's there but then it isn't there.
It's there but then it isn't there.
In the five minute break between Act I and Act II, designers make notes, and actors ask questions about the songs to come. Andrea takes a break from her piano-playing to surf the internet. As do...I...
While we wait to be officially back, an excerpt from the second to last page of the Paul Krugman piece:
Finally and most important is the matter of uncertainty. We’re uncertain about the magnitude of climate change, which is inevitable, because we’re talking about reaching levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere not seen in millions of years. The recent doubling of many modelers’ predictions for 2100 is itself an illustration of the scope of that uncertainty; who knows what revisions may occur in the years ahead.
Anyone involved with this play, or any creative endeavor, knows that revision is important. So maybe we have the advantage there.
Damn. This show is depressing. (In the best possible way.)
I'm rounding out my evening by being serenaded. The production team ran off to a production meeting, leaving me with the cast and Michael, who are singing in my direction. It's not all fun and games--I'm making notes of changed lyrics--but at this moment the life of a dramaturg is particularly sweet.
The Great Immensity just became a puppet show, with the lemur dancing along to "Martha the Last Pigeon."
Wrapping things up...until Tuesday. (Except for our class tomorrow.) It's been fun serving as your host this morning/afternoon/evening.