Climate Change Theatre Action (CCTA) is a worldwide series of readings and performances of short climate change plays run by organisation The Arctic Cycle. The 2017 CCTA asks “how can we turn the challenges of climate change into opportunities?” Emerging artist and WAAPA student Zachary Sheridan recently made a podcast responding to the initiative, and has penned a blog post for us on the topic.
Tell us about your podcast.
The podcast is part of Climate Change Theatre Action, a worldwide series of readings and performances of climate change plays presented in the support of the United Nations Conference of the Parties (the COP Meetings). I thought it would be interesting to make something that could exist outside a room of play readings. So I asked some fellow WAAPA classmates to get together and record readings of plays by the likes of Stephen Sewell, Elspeth Tilley, and Catherine Léger. Afterwards we talked about the plays and there’s been a really positive response. Elspeth emailed me saying how great it is to actually sit down and have a thoughtful discussion after such readings. There’s also some snazzy interviews with Riley Spadaro, Noemie Huttner-Koros, and The Blue Room Theatre’s very own Alexa Taylor.
What inspired you to be part of CCTA?
To borrow a quote from Chantal Bilodeau of HowlRound speaking about the first CCTA in 2015, ‘Theatre is a mighty tool. The only thing small about it is the vision of those who don’t know how to harness its potential. This season four women theatre artists with no money whatsoever, are, in effect, creating a global movement.’ I mean, that’s pretty stunning. I feel like you have to honour those types of calls to action if you are able to.
So, the call to action is one inspiration. Also the writings from theatre makers such as Chantal are pretty galvanising. Then there’s climate change itself – it impacts upon the world at every level and CCTA is one way of responding to such a crisis.
How do you think the arts relate to climate change?
I think in a world of increasing individualism where speed trumps time, the arts can facilitate space for reflection, learning and empowerment.
I’ve seen some great work since moving to Perth at the beginning of last year. Ecosexual Bathhouse from Pony Express put the human-earth relationship in a playful sexual context that definitely had me re-thinking my relationship to environments. The opening of PIAF this year – Boorna Waanginy – was an amazing collaboration between scientific and Indigenous modes of knowledge. It ended with this section called ‘seeds for change’ where people from across WA were projected onto this massive seed (I think that’s what it was). They’d talk about the species and plants they’d personally try to take care of in their local communities. It was a really transformative experience, and over 100,000 people visited the work in just the one weekend. Who says the arts can’t reach many?
There are also many ways artists and institutions can respond to climate change within their practice and processes beyond content. The Blue Room is a great example of this, from the Who Gives A Crap? toilet paper to the slap bands to the solar panels to the soon-to-be-installed LED lights. It would be great to see other organisations follow their lead.
Did the process of making the podcast change your thinking around this topic?
Sometimes I’m worried that when a person brings up “climate change,” everybody else responds with “oh god – not that old chestnut.” I was concerned that would be my experience in producing the podcast. In actuality, it was totally inspiring to speak with my peers about the issue and find them to be really excited and passionate about what we can do as makers.
I think this echoed what was discussed during my interview with Alexa, where she referenced Rebecca Solnit’s recent article online with Harpers Magazine. Basically, sometimes the response to work that tries to navigate climate change issues is that it’s “preaching to the choir.” Firstly, the preacher doesn’t actually preach to the choir – they actually preach towards the congregation. Secondly, you’ll find that many movements are built upon motivating communities who share your values, rather than trying to convince – as Alexa put it – the ‘cantankerous outliers.’ Perhaps too many people think that the work of artists is to convert non-believers, but I don’t think that is the case. I don’t necessarily have the answer but it might be something along the lines of providing that necessary space for reflection, learning and empowerment.
The other thing to take away from the podcast is that individual actions matter. I think systems-at-be would like us to believe we’re powerless, but we’re not. We can all do our own thing (and I probably don’t do enough) and from there inspire others. Go vegan for our non-human friends, write to members of government and the media and demand action, be energy efficient, use greener modes of transportation, support organisations that try to find solutions to climate change, choose renewable power, get involved, make your voice heard, make art. It’s easier said than done, but if we all support one another then positive movements will continue to build and great things emerge.
You can listen to Zac’s podcast here.
For more info and to RSVP The Blue Room Theatre and Alexa Taylor’s CCTA Play reading event on Monday 6 November, head here.