Wednesday, 4 May 2011

conference on 'staging sustainability' suggests another theatre database to complement this one

In the first of two reports from the 'Staging Sustainability' conference at York University in Toronto, Wallace Heim finds herself sustained by some "intriguing new developments" and the discovery that one of the talks was highlighting the Ashden Directory.

One only hears a fraction of the papers and presentations at a conference, and the rest are a blur of abstracts left in a dark room. Unexpected intersections sometimes light up, and the most surprising of these was meeting Lesley Delmenico from Grinnell College, Iowa at breakfast.

Lesley Delmenico was giving a paper on ‘theatre ecology’ at the same time as I was presenting our DVD, and a paper on our project New Metaphors for Sustainability. We didn't discuss our papers, the table was busy with people. Only later when someone directed her to me did the bells start ringing. About a third of her paper was on the Ashden Directory itself, and what an excellent database and resource it is. More than that, somehow, she had connected through or to Steve Waters with Robert’s interview, and with students had produced as theatre his single-play radio version of The Contingency Plan.

As a further project, she's going to suggest that students start compiling a database similar to our Directory for theatre productions in the United States and Canada. All this was in the context of her ideas of how the internet and media networks make possible the rapid dissemination of ideas and images that the environmental situation requires.

The presentations in the conference were a good indication of what's happening in Canada. Having been to many of these events, and organised a few, it's the repetitions that become noticeable, (...of the: 'we made costumes out of recycled materials', or ‘the local community was deeply engaged’ sort....) with a few spikes of intriguing new directions - like those on disability and what that means for perceptions of self-and-environment by artist Alicia Grace from the UK; on queering ecology, a plenary presentation by York academic Catriona Sandilands and dancer Michael J. Morris; and on a project that worked with native peoples on the west coast of Canada that saved some territory from clear-cutting when conventional forms of activism failed, by Nancy Bleck from Canada.

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