There were several performance pieces created and crafted for this year’s event: Start Where You Are by E. M. Lewis, The Penguins by Elspeth Tilley, Truth Like Water by Kate Laveaux, A Girl’s Dance by Ian Lesā, Brackendale by Elaine Avila, Single Use by Marcia Johnson, Swing Among the Stars by Philip Braithwaite, Homo Sapiens by Chantal Bilodeau, and Rube Goldberg Device for the Generation of Hope by Jordan Hall. They take on a mixture of influences, take place in various geographical locations, and involve the indigenous peoples of several different nations, showing how climate change is our problem. It’s great to see such a diverse range of pieces, as it helps keep the event engaging; we experience a series of different pieces, rather than performances repeating the same message the previous one did verbatim. However, I do wish the performances were introduced to the audience, or even we’re prefaced on what will unfold with some kind of introduction to get us started before we settle into the performances to help frame the event, and tie all the pieces together.
Each piece contributes to an entertaining display of talent, from writers, directors, and performers. Though, there are outliers that rise above the group, providing more insight into the topics they approach, providing more for the audience to sink their teeth into, and providing the theatricality and intrigue to pair so aptly with their messages. For me, those were A Girl’s Dance, Swing Among the Stars, and Rube Goldberg Device for the Generation of Hope.
A Girl’s Dance was a simple, elegant, and utterly enthralling tale of an Māori elder passing on his knowledge of the land to another member of the iwi. While the elder shares the poetry and mysticism being the land, there’s a woman dancing between them, responding to the words, writhing her body and arms, swing back and forth, replicating the tumult and power of the land we tread over. She is the land incarnate, a personification of the elders words, and watching her intricate and fierce movements pulls in my gaze. As her dance grows, the conversation fades into the distance. I’m watching the story of the land, narrated by a disembodied voice; I care not where the voice comes from, and I don’t even wish to look for it. My focus, my attention hones in on her sways. And that helps give her dance the power.
Swing Among the Stars soared into the fray layered in mystery. A young woman has been chosen for a cultivation project on Mars and is leaving behind her partner, who seems happy for her travels and dreams, but he’s heartbroken and anxious with how he addresses her. The man stands, close enough to touch his beloved but far enough so she can still board her spaceship. What’s particularly alluring and enticing about Swing Among the Stars is the audience is not “in-the-know”. It’s clear something is wrong with the Earth and because of this, we’ve set up habitable spots on Mars an unknown number of years in the future. But we don’t know, and never find out, what that something is. The story worsens; the team has asked the woman to make her flight a one-way trip to improve the quality of Mars for everyone, but she had failed to tell her partner this rather large detail. Both are crushed, both are confused. Even though Swing Among the Stars focused more on its narrative between the two partners, it core message of loss and action rings true to climate change, and true to the on-the-seat’s-edge audience members.
Rube Goldberg Device for the Generation of Hope closed the performance pieces, and its place in the show said much about the piece’s and the event’s purpose. Still Waving was about grouping like-minded people together to think about and take action towards change. Rube Goldberg Device pulls us off our feet to start that action, giving audience members pieces of white paper with notes and instructions on; the purpose being we are creating a Rube Goldberg device of sorts. This piece gets us going, gets us thinking about how things react in accordance with one another, but it feels rather selective. Only parts of the audience receive instructions, and we don’t really know why. And while everyone’s invite to join the dance party at the end, I can’t help by think some of my fellow audience goers felt some FOMO. I would challenge Hall, the writer, to involve everyone in their device. Doing so would help the piece better match the cause, giving everyone there the opportunity to rotate the gears of change.
Generation Zero, led by Victor Komarovsky, is a youth initiative focused on finding ways for people to deeply engage with climate change, and to source connections between people and action on an emotional and personal level. Komarovsky gave a short speech following the theatrical presentations, to give the audience some insight to Generation Zero and their plans, including the planned Zero Carbon Act. After the theatre pieces was a good place to move into a forum-type speech followed by questions. I do think more consideration should go into the structure of the event since the presentation was followed by announcing the winners of the Climate Change Creative Writing competition. Each segment should flow onto the next, so it seemed odd to partition the two performative segments with a speech about the event’s wider purpose and its organisation. Perhaps closing with Komarovsky and his speech, as well as having some short of introduction/preface to the afternoon would give the event a clearer, framed structure.
Still Waving was an inspiring and entertaining afternoon; I embarked to Scott’s Base, was one of the last homo sapiens alive, took part in a Rube Goldberg device, among other adventures and tales. The main focus of Still Waving is to teach its audience about climate change, to show its audience what’s happening to the environment all over the world, and to acknowledge what humans are doing right and wrong by our planet. There’s no denying its success there.
You can find out more about Generation Zero on their website, and more about the Zero Carbon Act here.