Climate Change: NAC English Theatre Brings Together Artists and Others for Green Rooms to Re-imagine Footprint of Theatre
As part of its response to the escalating climate crisis – and in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic – the National Arts Centre (NAC) today announced details of an extraordinary three-day/three-country digital experiment to explore how artists and arts institutions can rethink their practice and programming in order to reduce their environmental impacts, promote sustainability and social justice, and invest in the wellbeing of our planet.
The event is called “The Green Rooms: The Earth is Watching… Let’s Act”. It will take place June 10-12 and feature 120 participants – artists, leaders and scholars. The event is organized by the NAC English Theatre department in partnership with Festival of Live Digital Art (FOLDA), the Canada Council for the Arts, The City of Kingston, The National Theatre School, and HowlRound Theatre Commons.
The livestreams are accessible to the public beginning at 4:30 p.m. (EDT) on June 10 on at the following link: https://nac-cna.ca/en/cycle/climatechange
THE GREEN ROOMS: A PREVIEW
Participants will hear from leaders in fields such as climate action, ecological economy and environmental humanities, and from theatre artists and leaders who have found innovative ways to engage with the climate crisis. Participants will join from eight cities across three countries: Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Kingston, Montreal, and Halifax, as well as London (U.K.) and New York.
Participants will create some of the performative aspects of the event. Organizers describe the digital gathering – which has never been attempted in this way before – as “a raucous space that is part-picnic, part-convening and part co-creation”. This experimental international collaboration is made all the more unique by the arrival of COVID-19. The intention of the Green Rooms is to offer innovative ways to gather online during a moment of crisis.
Participants will join Zoom calls and co-create through sounds and visuals. Sessions will feature a speaker at the centre of the screen with participants gathered around on what might be described as a virtual picnic blanket. Viewers who join the livestream will act as spectators as the participants create. Speakers include Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, Executive Director Indigenous Climate Action and Kingston-based circus artist Erin Ball. On the evening of June 11, there will be a socially-distanced dance party with an invited DJ.
Click here for the full schedule: https://nac-cna.ca/en/cycle/climatechange
The Green Rooms is the culmination of a large initiative called the Climate Cycle. It is the brainchild of Sarah Garton Stanley, NAC English Theatre Associate Artistic Director, and Chantal Bilodeau, playwright, translator and Artistic Director of The Arctic Cycle. The first part of the Cycle initiative took place over three days in Banff in April 2019 when the NAC English Theatre – in partnership with the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, the Stratford Festival, the Canada Council for the Arts, the British Council, the Australia Council for the Arts, and others – gathered together participants from Canada, the U.S., Australia and the U.K..
“Even now, amid this unexpected and shape shifting global pandemic, the climate crisis remains the defining issue of our times.” says Sarah Garton Stanley “As our theatre communities struggle to keep their futures intact, so too does the earth struggle to keep its future sustainable. We have seen so much change in these past two months, The Green Rooms hopes to be part of any of the positives that might emerge from now.”
“With the pandemic, all the cards got reshuffled” said Chantal Bilodeau. “I’m excited to see how this project can help us understand what lessons from the COVID-19 crisis were learned and how those might be useful as we increase our efforts to address the climate crisis. The Earth watches as the theatre grapples with its survival and the Earth watches to see what decisions theatre makers and creators may take.”
“The NAC can play a vital role by convening relevant conversations about urgent issues facing artists and facing our society,” said Christopher Deacon, NAC President and CEO. “During these stressful times, the arts have much to offer all of us. The NAC is proud that our English Theatre Department is leading this important initiative exploring new ways to create and to adapt to the immense challenges posed by climate change.”
In order to measure the impact of The Green Rooms: The Earth is Watching...Let's Act on the theatre sector, participating companies and institutions will be asked to complete a survey before and after the event to capture knowledge, skills and attitudes, as well as organizational culture and behaviour, concerning climate impacts. A full report on the findings of the initiative will be available on the NAC website in the spring of 2021.
ABOUT THE CYCLES
The Green Rooms/Climate Cycle is part of a series of three two-year research initiatives dating back to 2014. They were developed by NAC English Theatre Associate Artistic Director Sarah Garton Stanley in partnership with artists and leaders from across the country. Each in-depth investigation seeks to gather practitioners around big ideas and, in theatrical terms, engage with the concerns of our contemporary society.
The two previous cycles have already had a tremendous impact on Canadian Theatre:
The Cycle on Indigenous Performance (2014-2015) explored the depth and breadth of Indigenous work in Canada and directly led to the creation of the NAC Indigenous Theatre, the first national theatre department of its kind in the world. The NAC Indigenous Theatre kicked off its inaugural season in September 2019.
The second Cycle on Deaf, Disability, Mad Arts and Inclusion (2016-2017) led to new networks and a much wider web of accessible performance practices spread across the country. Examples include the rapid growth of ASL, audio description and relaxed performances, the latter fueled by the British Council’s Access Activator program. Findings from this cycle were also adopted by the Canada Council for the Arts as part of an “accessibility toolkit” provided to their clients. Most importantly this cycle resulted in a significant increase in artistic programming celebrating Deaf, disability and Mad arts (NB: “mad” is framed as a social and political identity by people who have been labeled as mentally ill or as having mental health issues).
The goal of the final cycle and in particular The Green Rooms: The Earth is Watching...Let's Act is to build on the momentum of the previous two, to collectively reimagine the ways in which theatre companies and artist alike think about the social justice and environmental impacts of their work,and to discover new ways of making theatre that is regenerative rather than extractive.
OTHER NAC GREEN INITIATIVES
In addition to the Climate Change Cycle, the National Arts Centre has begun to look for concrete and measurable ways to reduce its carbon footprint. Thanks to better energy management practices such as more efficient building air systems, the NAC has already reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by
12.5% between 2017 and 2019. In 2020, the goal is to reduce emissions by more than 1,200 tons of CO2, a 17% reduction from 2019. The NAC is also well on its way to diverting 500,000 single-serve plastic containers and other items – including drink glasses, plates, utensils, straws and take-out boxes – from the landfill annually.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Director, Communications and Public Affairs
National Arts Centre
Senior Advisor, Communications
National Arts Centre
Communications Officer, English Theatre
National Arts Centre