Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Balancing Agenda + Art

The Civilians’ artistic team has started interviewing other artists that address climate change in their work as part of an ongoing series. We are excited to feature a brief portion of the next interview in the series, a chat between the founder and “Captain” of Superhero Clubhouse, Jeremy Pickard, and The Civilians’ Literary Associate, Amina Henry. 
Superhero Clubhouse is a collective of artists and environmental advocates working at the intersection of science and theater. They make original performances via a collaborative, green and rigorous process. 

Jeremy Pickard in DON'T BE SAD, FLYING ACE! at the 14th St Y, photo by Marina McClure
I’m curious as to when you started – so you had the first seed of an idea for “Don’t Be Sad, Flying Ace!” and when did you start writing it?
So I had the seed of an idea a couple years ago but I just didn’t know much more than it had to do with a dog inspired by Snoopy, stuck on his rooftop floating in the middle of the ocean, and it was called “Don’t Be Sad, Flying Ace!” I didn’t know much more than that. But I figured it had something to do with rising oceans and maybe storms. 
I wonder if you could talk a little about the trick of talking about issues via performance but avoiding it becoming an ‘issue piece’ that is alienating or isolating.
This is the crux, like, this is it, that’s what eco-theater is striving towards, is finding the balance. And I keep trying to figure out ways to define what I’m doing and my most recent definition is that eco-theater is the craft of balancing agenda and art. And that’s really tricky. Because if I want to just write a play with no agenda then I might start writing a character and the character wants to go in this direction and we take that character in this direction. But I’ve encountered this time and time again with so many of the plays where we’ll be creating it, and we will get excited because we’ll start figuring things out about what happens with the character. And we’ll get lost in the typical way that’s really helpful for a play. But then you have to step back and go, is this actually telling the story that is rooted in this questionIs it doing that justice? Is it reflecting this question? And so, I find that actually, rather than being inhibiting, it’s really freeing, because it forces you to make a choiceIt’s what Anne Bogart calls ‘the violence of decision-making in art,’ the violence of making a choice.
I was just at this conference in Toronto called “Staging Sustainability” and the speaker began the conference by saying one of her main themes was ‘living in the questions.’ And that’s my thing, living in the questions because not even the scientists have the answers, nobody has the full-on solutions…because the real solutions are not going to happen. A real solution would be everyone in the world stops flying, stops driving cars, stops eating meat. Or the other solution is that scientists get tons of funding to start sequestering carbon, which may happen, but like none of these are easy. Building walls around Manhattan is not an easy solution, and that may not be the solution, right? I don’t know, I mean there are so many big problems that are fast approaching and so many problems that we’re already in the thick of that nobody knows the answer to. So why in the world would I make a play and tell people the answer to anything? Because to me the point of eco-theater is to engage the audience in questions so that they leave and think about it.

Be sure to check out our website devoted to The Great Immensity for more interesting projects that explore the intersection of art + science + activism. 

Sex Variants, Part IV

This is our fourth and final episode of our Let Me Ascertain You: Sex Variants 1941, taking inspiration from a study conducted in the 1930’s by Dr. George Henry in which he interviewed a couple hundred individuals and cataloged data such as a complete family history with symbols to indicate who had what venereal disease, tuberculosis, alcoholism, who committed suicide, who was psychotic. We set some of these personal histories to song and brought others to life with monologues performed at Joe’s Pub in NYC.

To kick us off, we’ll start with a song written and performed by Max Vernon taking inspiration from the case study of Moses I. And the little intro you’ll hear is taken from Dr. Henry’s own words, performed by Trey Lyford. Also featured, actor Nedra McClyde performing the case study of Myrtle K, a vaudeville comedian. After that, we’ll wrap things up with a sea shanty, “Odd Girl Out” written by Jill Sobule, inspired by Roberta H., and performed by Marykate O’Neil. Many thanks to everyone involved in this project and our project contributors Ian Daniel, Joel Glassman, Amina Henry, Leicester Landon, and Benjamin Viertel.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

We Want Your Stories!

Hi Friends of The Civilians,

Our “Let Me Ascertain You” series returns to Joe’s Pub on Saturday, May 17th at 7pm. We’re hoping you can help us with our next installment: “F*cking and Dying.”

If you didn’t notice, we’re a bit obsessed with sex and death at The Civilians and this cabaret explores what happens when those fixations collide. We will look at the duality of human nature and our competing sex and death drives - our instinct for life, love and reproduction against our instinct toward death, aggression, and repulsion...and we need your stories!

If any of you or anyone you know might have good stories about sex or death or tales where the two collide -- please send details our way!

We’re looking to hear stories about…
- Wild coming-of-age sex stories or sexual explorations
- Sex addiction or Nyphomania
- Auto-erotic fetishes
- Dominatrix work
- “Terror sex” following disaster or trauma
- Sexual encounters near or connected to dying, funerals
...or of course necrophilia 

Please send us a brief summary of your story or shoot any questions you might have to and if we think your story might work for us, we’ll be in touch about setting up an interview. Any and all leads are helpful. We’re looking forward to hearing your stories. For more information click here
The Civilians
Photo Credit: Antoine D'Agata 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sex Variants, Part III

Welcome to episode three in our series Let Me Ascertain You: Sex Variants 1941. Recorded live at Joe’s Pub in New York City, this show takes its inspiration from the medical book Sex Variants: A Study of Homosexual Patterns by Dr. George W. Henry. For each of his case studies, Dr. Henry recorded a detailed and intimate personal history, and we are sharing some of these with you now through performances by actors and in original songs. In between, you will sometimes hear Dr. Henry’s own introductions to these case studies; those bits are performed by actor Trey Lyford. Our first piece is a song by the writing team of Erato Kremmyda and Maggie-Kate Coleman. Cyrilla Baer interprets the words of Rowena K. Following that is Rudolph Von H, a monologue performed by David Cale. And to close the third episode, we have a song by Michael Friedman inspired by the case study of Sydney H. Michael’s song is performed here by Dito Van Reigersberg accompanied on the piano by Nathan Dame.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Climate Change "Stories"

To better educate and engage the public, environmental organizations like Climate Wisconsin, Facing Climate Change, and Aspect have begun recording digital climate change “stories” as told by local residents. The goal for filmmakers is to create a relatable, contextualized narrative around climate change that will encourage dialogue and inspire action.
Though WI is know for its brutal winters, extreme heat is responsible for more deaths in the state than all other weather disasters combined.

In Wisconsin, higher than average temperatures year-round are curtailing ice fishing in Madison, and fly fishing in Viroqua. Across the Atlantic in Cornwall, England, surfing enthusiasts complain that they are now more prone to ear and other infections as heavy rainfall regularly overwhelms waste drainage systems causing toxins and sewage to spill into the sea.
Local industry is also feeling the sting of climate change. In Idaho, declining mountain top snow pack is resulting in a reduced stream of fresh water feeding the Columbia River Basin, which has caused the closure of several potato farms that rely on the river to irrigate their crop.  In Washington State, oyster and clam farming is quickly becoming unviable due to the rising acidity of the ocean off the Pacific Northwest coast.
From the inability to take part in recreational activities to threatening local economies, it is clear that the effects of climate change are becoming palpable. What's your climate story?
Check out these awesome projects:

Climate Wisconsin: Stories From a State of Change

Facing Climate Change: Stories from the Pacific Northwest 
Aspect (UK)

Be sure to check out our website devoted to The Great Immensity for more interesting projects that explore the intersection of art + science + activism. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

César and The Lisps: "The Future Looks Very Fine"

Check out César and The Lisps performing "The Future Looks Very Fine" from our recent Let Me Ascertain You: Sex Variants 1941 at Joe's Pub! Go HERE to listen to the entire podcast, and please subscribe on iTunes and rate us.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Visualizing Climate Change: The HighWaterLine

Climate change is a downright abstract concept to get your head around. The science is complicated, the effects are broad yet nuanced, and not everyone will be impacted in the same way. So, what is an impactful way to represent the dangers posed by climate change that everyone can understand?
One project is raising eyebrows by literally drawing a line through the community. The HighWaterLine is a visual representation of projected, future sea-level rise as a result of global warming and more frequent and stronger storms and storm surges. Using various media, such as a blue chalk outline, or even a human chain, a revised flood zone based on current climate data is delineated within an urban/suburban area, bringing the reality of a warming planet home to local residents.

HighWaterLine | NYC, Brooklyn, 2007 Attribute: Hose Cedeno
The HighWaterLine is the brainchild of NYC-based artist, Eve Mosher, who initially based the project on climate change data contained within a NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies report issued in 2001. Having read the report and witnessing a watered-down response from public officials, Ms. Mosher was determined to take matters into her own hands.
After nearly eight months of research and planning, Ms. Mosher installed the first iteration of The HighWaterLine in August 2007 along 70 miles of coastline in Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, demarcating the 10 foot about sea level rise with a 4-inch wide blue chalk line.
To encourage others to replicate the project in their own communities, Ms. Mosher devised a HighWaterLine “Action Guide,” in essence a simplified toolkit of knowledge bites and best practices, to ensure easy replication of the project elsewhere. 
Be sure to check out our website devoted to The Great Immensity for more interesting projects that explore the intersection of art + science + activism.