On the same weekend that 195 nations reached an unprecedented agreement to take action on climate change, a dozen or so theatergoers were dancing the Climate Change Macarena. Guided by choreographer Phoebe Rose Sandford, we danced the seven rhythmic steps repeatedly, set to a tropical beat – we changed a light bulb (twisting our wrists above our heads), bicycled (pumping our legs in place), planted a tree (crouching down and then rising up with our arms in the air as if growing), brought our mug with us, turned down our thermostat, composted – and then patted ourselves on the back.
This dance of carbon emission reduction was one of 15 clever monologues, dances and scenes in “Where Have All The Glaciers Gone,” a collaborative theater piece that was part of the Climate Change Theatre Action. As its organizers explained, this was a series of performances and readings created “by writers from all six livable continents,” and presented in at least 70 venues around the globe – an ambitious, well-meaning and, let’s face it, intimidating project.
What a relief, then, to find that one of these shows was actually entertaining – fun and funny.
Yes, “Where Have All The Glaciers Gone?” was informative as well. The first scene, written by director Erin B. Mee, presented Colin Waitt as a climate scientist giving a lecture. In front of slides showing such current effects of climate change as a polar bear clinging to the last little piece of ice of a melted iceberg, the lecturer informed us that by 2020, just five years from now, “water stress” caused by climate change will affect upwards of 750 million people around the world; that rising sea levels could cut in half the food available to Bangladesh in five years and completely obliterate The Republic of the Maldives by the end of the century.
But the show drove home the point in more theatrical ways as well, with pieces written by a half dozen playwrights and performed by a cast of three. Some of the scenes were well-placed snark: “The Ten Best Things About Global Warming” included “1. No more pesky weeds. In fact, no more pesky plants.” And “9. Three thongs and you’re dressed!” Some involved audience participation. In addition to the “Climate Change Macarena,” another, “Walk the Walk,” had us literally measuring our green commitment: e.g.
“If you learned about recycling in school, and practice what you learned, take a step forward.”
“If you’ve thrown something away that you knew could be recycled, take two steps back.”
“If you’ve ever checked the box on Grub Hub saying no plastic forks, stay where you are, because you still ordered from Grub Hub.”
Skeptics – either those who don’t “believe” in climate or don’t think that an individual can do anything about it – were humorously taken to task, in August Schulenburg’s The Reasons ( “Because a bigger car makes me feel safe when I’m driving with my kids.”; “Because we have bigger problems to worry about.”) In Colin Waitt’s “A Question from The Audience,” Caitlin Goldie portrayed “Ashley” who said to the climate scientist played by Waitt “Everything you’re doing is great. Really creative…[But] what can we do as individuals do to actually make a difference?” and then blabbered on without allowing the scientist to answer.By the end of “Where Have All The Glaciers Gone?”, the stage at 244 Greene Street was covered with trash. The magazines, receipts, unused napkins, packaging had been heaped on the floor during “The Day Wasted,” a look at one person’s trash from a single day. But the issues surrounding climate change felt less cluttered.