How do you write a play about the climate crisis?

As part of a new initiative, playwright Bess Wohl was tasked with writing a play about climate crisis, a daunting proposition thats morphed into the off-Broadway drama Continuity

Time. Comedic timing. The freezing of time. How much time humanity has left before certain catastrophe.


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    In Continuity, the new off-Broadway play from the award-winning playwright Bess Wohl and Tony-nominated director Rachel Chavkin, time is the central theme, affecting each character in different ways. Told through the frame of a Hollywood film set, the play tackles how humans are supposed to deal with the magnitude of climate crisis, even as their lives become weighed down with personal drama.

    Someone get this asshole out of my shot! yells Maria, the harangued film director and central character of the play, shortly before she picks up a prop ice pick, ready to physically defend the integrity of her movie. The events of the play have finally pushed her to the brink. Shes trying to achieve the perfect shot for the sake of continuity and faces studio pressure for her first blockbuster about climate change. Beneath her, the set spirals out of her control: her former boyfriend and screenwriter David undermines her, the lead actor Nicole challenges her and struggles with sobriety, and a humble climate crisis scientist Larry struggles to be heard. While debates about the script have tested her it is Larrys voice, the voice of impending doom, that is her undoing.

    For Wohl, Continuity is very much art-imitating-life. The plays setting, a Hollywood set, came about as the playwright worked on one herself. Its essence appealed to the actor-turned-playwright on several levels. Im always interested in deconstructing those ideas about what movie making is and what theatre making is and finding new ways to look at them, Wohl told the Guardian. She further explained that this premise intrigued her because of its fixed nature.The idea of continuity in a movie set context is the idea that the shot has to stay the same all the time for continuity. But of course, thats also kind of impossible because time is moving forward. She continued: A movie set seemed like an interesting place to examine change Movies keep moments the same. It resists time and change and decay.

    The indefinite preservation of moments isnt scientific, but Continuity melds storytelling and scientific fact in a way that is enjoyable for the audience but pays adequate credence to its origins. Commissioned and produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club, the play was written with science in mind, as a part of the Sloan Initiative: Setting the Stage for Science and Technology. According to Wohl, there was immense pressure to get the science correct, not only for the benefit of the audience but also for the scientists who consulted on the play. The scientists couldnt figure out how to tell a story that could make people care. I was interested in looking at how you make a story that makes people care and [address] the question of science and storytelling colliding, she said.

    Telling the correct narrative was pertinent to Wohl. After she was granted the commission several years ago, she feel uncertain of how she would write a play about climate crisis. I wasnt sure what my approach to climate change was gonna be because its a very daunting thing to write about or even think about. And then after the election, actually, after Trump became president, I think the urgency to write this play about science and climate change in particular felt even more acute for me. It was really after the election that I put this on the front-burner and said OK, I have to write this play about science and that science is a really worthy and important thing to be putting forth as a primary inspiration in our culture right now. Chavkin champions Wohls prioritization of climate crisis, telling the Guardian, I dont think anyone who is living in mainstream America is living with the truth of how to helm the change thats required, if we dont wish to see the likely end of humanity as we know it. And that sounds very, very dire, but I think that is the place that the play is operating in.

    Rosal
    Rosal Coln and Darren Goldstein in Continuity. Photograph: Matthew Murphy

    Both Chavkin and Wohl confessed the presaging of the climate crisis was hard to reconcile with during the initial production and even now. Wohl especially admitted feeling defeated several times during her research and creation of this play. I mean, I feel defeated in general every time I sit down at my computer so thats basically where I start from! she laughed. But I did find it very challenging to figure out how to approach this topic because plays are so much about the stakes of human interactions and our own lives and what we want, what we dont want and what we fear, and all of those questions. Then, when you put those questions against the backdrop of well, humanity might be ending and what do you think about time, everything becomes so crushed by these giant, giant problems that were facing that you can get to a very nihilistic place very quickly. I would sit at my computer and think, Whats the point of writing another play, in the face of all the challenges that were facing as a society? Once you start to think on that grand scale, its hard to then write lines of dialogue in a play.

    Eventually, the cynicism morphed into a plot. But I think my pass through that was to make that question the question of the play to a degree: how do we tell stories with this seismic thing happening in our world? What kind of stories should we be telling? Is it better to tell a hopeful story or is it better to tell a true story? Is it right to keep telling stories in a time when stories seem to be a distraction from a very difficult reality? Or can our stories help us understand and cope with reality better?

    Reality, as Wohl demonstrates in Continuity, moves and it does so swiftly. It moves forward, and as it does, the human race runs out of time to fix the future. The very thought can inspire acertain melancholic hopelessness which permeates the play and even its makers. Climate change can be very arresting and depressing, Chavkin said. She hopes the play will cement the gravity of the situation. Plays impact audience members and audience members can impact legislation. So the best I can hope for from a play is that it creeps into an audiences conscious and subconscious and helps foreground the urgency of what we are confronting and what the world is confronting.

    The play presents several perspectives as it moves through what it means to live as something so important dies. This richness is partly what attracted Chavkin, its depth of intentionality of perspective. Climate change is something that obviously, everyone is confronting from very, very, very different vantage points and very different levels of exposure, she said. But while Continuity examines the lives and problems of each character, the demise of humanity looms, in the form of a climate crisis warns the scientist. If it alarms the audience, it is meant to. It is meant to speed up the doomsday clock inside the audience members so that they ask more of themselves.At least, thats what Chavkin hopes it will do. I want people to confront the minutiae of their personal ecosystem [and] how the values of that ecosystem both the ideals and the daily practices, how they intersect with climate change and this reality that we are living with, she said.

    I can definitely say the play doesnt have a comfortable ending, says Chavkin. Shes right: Continuity is uncomfortable in its urgency. But its message is clear: the problems of our days are trivial and sophomoric, compared to the climate crisis at large. It confronts the audience with the problem of time. Time passes. The sun sets. The play will end. And now, what will you do? What can you do against a destruction so catastrophic, in the face of your everyday problems? Its as Maria commands of her lead actor Nicole: You show the fuck up!

    Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

     


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