Climate Change Theatre Action Chicago: A Curated Conversation

A continuation of our work at CCTA International: Hive Workshop, Climate Change Theatre Action - Chicago was three evenings of readings and performances on the topic of global climate change in support of the United Nations COP23 meeting chaired by Fiji and hosted in Bonn, Germany. This multi-disciplinary international event featured short films, dance, puppetry, live performances, and a call to activism. Developed with artists from China, France, Italy, Slovakia, Spain, The United Kingdom, Canada, across the United States and Chicago, this collective effort supported and encouraged individual action on climate change and steps towards a better future for all.

Alexandra Ranieri, Denise Yvette Serna, Iris Sowlat, Carolina Migli-Bateson, and Olivia Lilley

Alexandra Ranieri, Denise Yvette Serna, Iris Sowlat, Carolina Migli-Bateson, and Olivia Lilley

I drove this project with co-producer Iris Sowlat at Chicago's Pride Arts Center. In an effort to reduce waste, we chose to go paperless for our play programs!
Check out the contributing artists on our digital program page.

Putting this event together required quite a lot of moving parts. Co-Founder of Global Hive Laboratories, Jack Paterson supported administrative tasks and cultivated submissions from our international colleagues. Co-Producer Iris Sowlat worked to livestream an evening of performance, which was central to our mission of providing as many access points to the conversation as possible. Global Hive Labs Partner Carolina Migli-Bateson was vital to our load in, installation, and display of our art installations. 

The New Galileos  by Amy Berryman

The New Galileos by Amy Berryman

We were joined by playwright Amy Berryman, who flew in from NYC to join us and celebrate her play The New Galileos. We were joined by Carolina Migli-Bateson, who flew in from Piacenza, Italy to perform her piece Nymph of the River. Carolina and the significance of climate change for her hometown was featured on Spiel Chicago.

“I want [audiences] to feel a sense of loss … I want them to understand that nature is a living entity and looks at us puzzled, not understanding what we are doing and why we are destroying ourselves.  I also want them to feel the time ticking by faster and faster as we have raped nature and her revenge on us will be terrible if we don’t do something about it collectively.“
- Carolina Migli-Bateson

Aside from managing all the moving parts, stage managing, marketing, and hosting the event, I also directed three pieces from The Arctic Cycle.  The three scripts I chose allowed for unconventional presentation and devised performances.  For Minor Flood, Major Constellation: Sirius and the Cartographer Map the New World By Lisa Schlesinger I recorded an oral interpretation of the script at CCTA International this summer, and in rehearsal with Chicago based performers devised music and movement to layer upon it. In performance of Gaia by Hiro Kanagawa, the artists donned rain ponchos and threw darts at a map of the world while enjoying beer and bar mix.  As they articulated Kanagawa's poetic text, their dart game generated a new painting each evening. Rube Goldberg Device for The Generation of Hope by Jordan Hall, performers led the audience in a participatory artistic experience that ended with a little bit of hope and a whole lot of dancing.  It was a pleasure to tickle my directing and devising muscles, and we rehearsed each piece for a few hours and really put our focus into creating stimulating work. 

With collaboration from Global Hive Laboratories, Pride Arts Center, BoucheWHACKED! Theatre Collective, La Compagnie Certes, Fusion Theatre Company, and in association with the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts, NoPassport Theatre Alliance, The Arctic Cycle, Theatre Without Borders, and York University, the event included live performances directed by producer Denise Yvette Serna, producer Iris Sowlat, Olivia Lilley, Carolina Migli Bateson, Ryan Oliveira, and material developed with artists across the globe. Readings included new works by Elaine Avila, Carolina Migli Bateson, Amy Berryman, Clare Duffy, Angella J. Emurwon, Kendra Fanconi, Jordan Hall, Lisa Schlesinger, Marcia Johnson,  Hiro Kanagawa, Sarena Parmar, Katie Pearl, Ryan Oliveira, Caridad Svich, and Jordan Tannahill.

Worldcon 75: Theatre, Genre Fiction, and the reality of Global Warming

Last week I attended the 75th annual World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki, Finland. Worldcon is an international gathering of the science fiction and fantasy community. The first Worldcon was held in 1939, and, after a break during WWII, the event has been held annually since 1946, with the location changing each year. 

Modern Worldcons are held over five days and are attended by thousands of members – over 6,000 people attended Worldcon 75. Attendees included writers, artists, fans, editors, publishers, academics and dealers, all with an interest in science fiction.

Worldcons are not just about the written word. Over the decades Worldcons have grown to embrace science fiction in all the forms in which it appears, including film, TV, art, comics, anime and manga, and gaming. Attending this convention as a theatre maker (though I have attended Harry Potter and Teen Wolf conventions and The MCM London Comic Con over the past 8 years) was fascinating. I was able to attend panels, workshops and presentations exploring things like diverse representation in fiction and media, collaborative concepts, devised performance, and the science behind climate change and it's implications on the future.  All of these topics serve to inform my work and my creative process. 


Some of the most immediately relevant sessions I attended were those relating to climate change, and humanity's perceptions of the natural world at different points in our history. As I prepare to join my colleague Jack for an international, Climate Change focused devising workshop in London next week, as well as work towards producing a Climate Change Theatre Action in Chicago in November, these conversations were both informative and inspiring. Speculative fiction and fantasy writers have been imagining a post-Anthropocene world for a long time. Chats with and presentations by scientific researchers, anthropologists, historians and novelists have proved to be some of the most valuable research I have done for this project. I look forward to how they will inform our work with the CCTA.

Another fantastic experience at Worldcon was a workshop I attended led by playwright Tajinder Singh Hayer. Over the course of the workshop we devised possible post-apocalyptic scenarios, and the social, political, and cultural implications of chemical, biological, and warfare related disasters on characters and narrative. The folks I was devising with were a retired parole officer and an astrophysicist. It was fascinating to see how our different experiences and knowledge bases affected the story and characters of our fictional world. 

Worldcon, though not explicitly marketed toward theatre practitioners, is a really wonderful opportunity for networking and professional and artistic development. I would definitely recommend checking out next year's Worldcon in San Jose, CA, or in two years in Dublin, Ireland! 

CCTA International: Hive Workshop

My great friend and collaborator Jack Paterson and I are up to something this summer in London! For the second year in a row, I will join NoPassport Theatre Alliance in a global theatre action. Last year, I participated in After Orlando at Chicago's Pride Arts Center. The theatre action centered around the tragic massacre at Pulse Night Club, and was a powerful coming together of the theatre community in remembrance and activism.  This year, our theatre action will focus our artistic efforts around the subject of Climate Change

In the spirit our training, and a further desire to collaborate internationally, we invite you to join us either in person or virtually for our first international laboratory. This laboratory process will begin in London, August 2017.

At the conclusion of the London session, work generated will be utilized to inform a CCTA event in Chicago, Illinois, as well as anywhere in the world our collaborators may choose to participate in the movement. Read on for more information, and if you're interested in joining us please fill out the form at the bottom of this post! 

London: The first phase in an international CCTA collaboration led by Denise Yvette Serna and Jack Paterson.

Artists and Directors will join together in a laboratory setting to

  • Workshop scripts from the CCTA Anthology

  • Create archival record of entire pieces or elements of pieces

  • Create and devise sensory elements that can be utilized by other artists at international CCTA events

  • Examine the potential of International Collaborative Creation & Presentation through technology

  • Explore the interaction between Technology and the Environment

If climate change is a global phenomenon affecting all without regard to region, race, or responsibility (though arguably, some regions of the world topographically suffer the effects more immediately than others), how can international collaboration bring relevance and dynamic conversation about the artist’s role in climate justice and civilian responsibility to the entirety of the population?

Through creative use of technology to fuse international practice and aesthetic, our cohort will expand on the mission of No Passport and CCTA, creating a bridge between traditionally scripted and devised work inspired by climate change.

  1. Choose elements of, or entire pieces from the anthology provided by The Arctic Cycle, and create a digital record of it.  This can be images, sound files, musical composition, video, record of devised movement or choreography, puppet templates, translation - anything that is created in support or inspired by a text. Dream big here - it can be as simple as an audio recording of someone reading the script, to orchestrations of music made with garbage to underscore a text. Truly anything.

  2. Upload archival record of these elements in a drive to be shared by laboratory participants.

  3. Coordinate a conference call style collaboration between your work and the workshop in London, where international actors can devise alongside one another.

  4. Create archival footage of entire pieces that can be showcased at the Chicago production of CCTA, and/or livestreamed on HowlRoundTv.

  5. Organize a CCTA event in your region, and utilize the workshop and laboratory archive we create to inform, inspire, bolster your work.

We hope to foster a healthy collaborative spirit with our international colleagues, alumni and current students of E15, and our communities.


We invite you to join the Climate Change Theatre Action, from wherever in the world you are currently based. Please visit their website to learn more, register your participation, and obtain access to the anthology of scripts.