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title:  The Full Story

$750,000 (£470,000) funding for US musical about climate change - reviews are in

Editors' note: The Great Immensity opened at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, 24 February 2012, and will run there to 18 March.

The US National Science Foundation has awarded a $750,000 (£470,000) grant to The Civilians, Investigative Theater, a New York theater company, to finance the production of a play with music about climate change.

The Great Immensity explores the themes of climate change, deforestation and extinction in two distinct locations: Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal and the city of Churchill in arctic Canada. Both places have ecosystems already affected by the shift in climate, centers of scientific research, and relationships to global shipping. The play takes its name from a Chinese Panamax ship that the authors observed crossing the Panama Canal.

In the play, Polly, a photojournalist, disappears while working in the rainforests of Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal. Phyllis, Polly's twin, embarks on an international search for her lost sister that spans the North American continent, from the tropics to arctic Canada. The play draws on interviews with botanists, paleontologists, climatologists, indigenous community leaders, Polar Bear Tour guides, and trappers.

Two reviews are in. Robert Trussell of the Kansas City Star, finds the play well-performed, but short on dramatic tension.

    'The show seems dedicated to the notion that it’s possible to liberate vital information from research papers and science journalism and present it in an entertaining but no less informative way on stage.

    But if you accept this play’s contention that the planet is going down the tubes, is that knowledge really enough? People beset by immediate day-to-day problems — unemployment, health insurance worries — may have a to-do list that doesn’t include defending the eco-ramparts.'

Victor Wishna of KCMetropolis, an online journal of performing arts, agrees as far as the skill of the production, but finds shortcomings in the story itself, and its tendency to preach.
    'The only brush with optimism is the suggestion that a simple solution is still possible: all it will take is for the entire world to work together. (Hello? Have you met the world?)

    Unless you are already a dedicated researcher of climate science, you will likely learn something. But what exactly you are supposed to do with that knowledge after the houselights rise is, seemingly, part of the mystery. But that’s where the provocative comes in. Theatre-goers may very well leave The Great Immensity more frustrated and agitated than inspired. But unlike a lecture or even a documentary film, theatre isn’t expected to offer answers but to raise—to provoke—questions, to challenge assumptions, to take us from “there’s nothing to be done” to “Isn’t there something we can do?”'

Ashdenizen blogs on the reviews, comparing the production to Greenland at the National Theatre.

The National Science Foundation is a US federal agency that funds science, engineering and mathematics research and education. The theatre company says it plans to spend the money on the development and evaluation of the show, as well as on a tour and educational programs.

photo: copyright The Civilians

www.thecivilians.org

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