The Welders’ Annalisa Dias on ‘HEARTSPACE’ and responding to impending and present climate disasters

The Welders, a self-described artists’ collective, burst upon the DMV theatrical landscape in the summer of 2013 with a mission to establish an evolving, alternative platform for play development and production. The intent of that platform is to inspire and encourage members to take risks and make bold leaps in exploring the craft of playwriting; produce one performance of work created by each member playwright over the course of three years; create significant, meaningful, direct engagement between artists and members of the community; and support future generations of DC-area playwrights.

The Welders’ entire operations—everything from the logo to the checking account—will be passed along to a new generation of playwrights, who will carry The Welders forward for another three years, and so on into the foreseeable future.

The Welders’ upcoming production of HEARTSPACE is the final installment of the earth, that is sufficient. It will also be final productions for The Welders 2.0, the second group of Welders before The Welders 3.0 makes its collective appearances as the next generation of theater-makers.

HEARTSPACE, from the creative talents of The Welders Lead Producing Playwright Annalisa Dias, is exploring how performance can foster hope and change in a time of climate anxiety. The show HEARTSPACE takes place between November 16-23 at Anacostia Playhouse. It is a festival of community art events, building on previous phases offering opportunities for audiences to connect, build, and celebrate stories of hopeful futures beyond the climate crisis.

I reached out to Annalisa Dias to learn more. Here is our conversation.

David Siegel: What was the impetus for you and The Welders to create and produce HEARTSPACE?

Annalisa Dias: HEARTSPACE is the final phase of the earth, that is sufficient, which is my contribution to the Welders 2.0 cohort. It is the final project of our generation, so it represents a culmination of many things. This particular project is ensemble-driven, so to be accurate I want to acknowledge all of the many minds, hearts, bodies, hopes, and lands that have informed it. In a time when we are saturated with images and narratives of impending and present climate disasters, this is a work of community, connection, and hope.

Annalisa Dias. Photo by Teresa Castracane.
Annalisa Dias. Photo by Teresa Castracane.

How can a theater production such as HEARTSPACE raise awareness of the climate emergency to a wider public?

I actually wouldn’t say that our primary aim with this project is to raise awareness about the climate emergency. My (perhaps naive) hope is that we already know how bad the climate catastrophe is — we feel it — and we know we have to change everything about the way we live and relate to one another. But the scale of change needed and the grief for places and communities that are already being lost feels so overwhelming that we struggle even to know where to start.

HEARTSPACE is about using theatrical tools — gathering people together, imagery, poetry, sensory experience, imagination, dance — to create space for all of us to find strength in joy, hope, and resilience in the face of the climate crisis.

Please tell readers a bit about what they can expect at HEARTSPACE?

Depending on which engagements audiences attend (there’s something for everyone!), people might expect different things. The show itself, which runs November 19-23, is an immersive experience featuring live projections, puppetry, and dance, where audiences are invited to become time travelers and meet ancestors and descendants who remind us of our interconnectedness to past, present, and future.

Additionally, as part of the residency, we’re doing a public puppet build that is family-friendly on Saturday, November 16th, and those puppets will join us on parade next Saturday, November 23rd from the Anacostia Playhouse to the Anacostia River. The puppets we’re making are all of native species, and our parade will honor and celebrate the river and the interconnected ecosystems it supports (even as it is need of care and clean up). We are also hosting an urban foraging workshop, a coat swap, a Climate Justice Cabaret, and a Climate Futures Dance Party!

I understand that the production may feature Lucy. Why?  

Lucy is our common ancestor and she has much to tell us about the world we live in and the possible futures we might encounter. Lucy provides such a deep provocation because of how much geologic time she has witnessed. She tells us about underground worlds where decomposition might be thought of as an act of resistance.

Are there generational differences in how people “see” the urgency of the climate crisis?

To be honest, I don’t know that I find generalizations super helpful, especially when thinking about climate justice. Peoples’ views and their relationships to lands, histories, and possible futures are so specific and tied up in their lineages and experiences. For what it’s worth, the Yale Program on Climate Communications has a ton of research and data on perceptions of climate narratives across the US.

HEARTSPACE, presented by The Welders, features performances and events from November 16-23, 2019, at the Anacostia Playhouse, 2020 Shannon Place SE, Washington, DC. For full event information and to RSVP, go online.


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