On December 5 at Baltimore’s Creative Alliance, Vital Matters hosts All Good Things Must Begin as part of the global Climate Change Theatre Action festival, bringing together local theater artists, activists, and others to read 7 plays from 5 countries that will help connect the dots between what is happening around climate and environmental justice globally and locally.
The 7 plays presented at Creative Alliance are chosen from among 50 commissioned by Climate Change Theatre Action. Every two years since 2015 (when the Paris agreement was signed), 50 playwrights from around the world have been commissioned to write short plays that inform and inspire action around climate change, at the time of the United Nations COP meeting. This year’s CCTA theme, “All Good Things Must Begin,” is inspired by speculative fiction writer Octavia Butler’s journals, which show the incredible grit, vision, and determination behind her success. This event, which takes place as international leaders gather for the UN Climate conference in Dubai, keeps this declaration in mind, as well as Butler’s invitation for us to “shape change,” as expressed in her Parable books. Begin, yes! But how? What makes change possible in the face of seemingly insurmountable difficulties? This year’s CCTA playwrights grapple with these questions and more.
Baltimore’s iteration of “All Good Things Must Begin” is presented by Vital Matters, an “interdisciplinary laboratory for change,” which launched in 2021 with a Climate Change Theatre Action event called Winter Seeds, which featured six plays, two original songs, puppets, and more, at The Voxel. Since then, Vital Matters has brought two free Whose Earth (Day)? events to Baltimore at Ivy Bookshop, featuring such Baltimore luminaries as Lawrence Brown, Sanahara Ama Chandra, Jordan Bethea of Bliss Meadows Farm, and in June 2023, collaborated with Blue Water Baltimore, artists and activists including Valeska Populoh and Rejjia Camphor (Sister Stream Catcher) in the international Global Water Dances, a project similar to CCTA in its global vision and local expressions, and its connecting of art with activism.
A diverse team of actors and directors from Baltimore, and guests from NY and DC will bring the following plays to life: Types by Jessica Huang (U.S.), Chili Crab Less Spicy by Dia Hakim K. (Singapore), Photographic Realism by Javaad Alipoor (Iran/U.K.), Bonbibi and Dakshan Ray Meet the Bureaucracy by Manjima Chatterjee (India), The Committee to Expropriate, A Revenge Fantasy by Darrah Teitel (Canada), A Little Green by Charly Evon Simpson (U.S.) and The Polar Bears by Nicolas Billon (Canada). Baltimore-based visual artist Maura Dwyer (who also creates graphics for Vital Matters’ marketing) and musician Allie Fitzgibbon perform Dwyer’s cranky Wilder than Walls, and Sanahara Ama Chandra provides original music to help audiences transition from one world to the next, and to bring hearts and minds together.
Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for gifts by local vendors and information in the gallery, including Gourds by Fafa, books for all ages on climate and related subjects from Ivy Bookshop, information from 350.org, The Years Project, the Baltimore Compost Collective, and more! The bar will be open. The show begins at 7 p.m. and will be ASL interpreted. Creative Alliance is a fully accessible facility. Conversation Partners Susan McCully from the UMBC Theatre Department, Taylor Smith-Hams from 350.org, and Baltimore-based environmental justice advocate Naadiya Hutchinson will discuss challenges of the climate crisis in Baltimore and beyond, as well as some of the good things that have already begun to address them. Specific campaigns and actions will be shared.
Quotes from participants:
Michele Minnick, founder of Vital Matters and the event producer, says “I am thrilled about the incredible artists we are bringing together for this event, and the folks who are joining us as conversation partners, vendors, the organizations that will be tabling. We have hard truths to face as we move deeper into this climate crisis. The gears of change turn slowly on the global stage. We need all of us to shape change in big and small ways to ensure a livable future. There are incredibly resilient and resourceful people and organizations in Baltimore who have been making a difference in their communities. I am excited to bring them into conversation with these plays, and the audience. The CCTA playwrights offer us the gifts of imagination, humor, anger, and hope, and live theater brings us together in community to grieve, laugh, process, plan, and move forward with the energy and ideas we get from one another. Join us! I look forward to meeting you at Creative Alliance!”
Award-winning filmmaker and actor in “A Little Green,” Tina Canady says “I’m excited to participate in CCTA because doing so enables me to creatively contribute to the collective conversation about the new world I hope to live in and envision the world I hope to leave behind.”
Playwright and professor of UMBC Theatre Department Susan McCully, one of the conversation partners for the event, is producing “Green Theatre Revolution”— a devising and new play development project with UMBC students and playwrights in the spring of 2024. Inspired by Millennial and GenZ artivists who are creating trans-local art and climate justice action, she says, “Climate Change Theatre Action thrills me because it is an expansive trans-local project bringing so many diverse voices into the storytelling circle. Nothing is more urgent than recasting the narratives, to communicate the science, to center more than human beings and human beings in new plays, to give voice to those with great cultural knowledge around water and land, to call us all in.”
Hannah Fenster, manager of The Ivy Bookshop and collaborator with Vital Matters since 2021, says, “Local business is inherently tied with climate action through its values of slowness, small-scale resourcing, and relationship building between individuals, with a fundamental belief that stories help orient and catalyze these changes. We’ve loved hearing the ways that Octavia Butler’s writing has guided this year’s CCTA planning, and are pleased to support work that sees her intersectional vision as a pathway through a multidimensional climate crisis.”
ASL interpreter Renuka Purimetla says: “As a sign language interpreter, I forget a lot of the messages I convey when I complete the assignment. When I had the opportunity to provide language access to the Deaf community for Winter Seeds, I was blown away by how much I have learned about climate change! I was moved by theater’s storytelling ability, and saw how it allowed the audience to share honest care, concerns, and opinions while creating empathy and emotion. I believe we can do better for Mother Earth individually and collectively and that people can learn more through Climate Change Theatre Action than I have seen with politics or in a class!”
Climate Change Theatre Action: All Good Things Must Begin, presented by Vital Matters, performs one night only, Tuesday, December 5, 2023 at Creative Alliance, 3134 Eastern Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21224. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for shopping from local vendors and information in the gallery. Play readings begin at 7:00 p.m., followed by discussion with conversation partners. Vital Matters uses a tiered ticketing system, from $10 to $75, in an effort to make the event accessible to all. If you have the means to purchase a ticket of $35 or higher, this helps to pay the artists, and enables others to join who might not otherwise be able to. For more details and to purchase tickets, visit creativealliance.org/event/climate-change-theatre-action-all-good-things-must-begin/