The Connection between Art and Social Change? A lot of art is aesthetically pleasing but functions as if we live in a social vacuum. Karen Malpede, playwright, theatre director, environmental educator and advocate reveals the relationship between artistic work and social change — in conversation with Alison Rose Levy.
by Karen Malpede
The UN has described the war in Yemen as “the worst man-man humanitarian disaster of our time.” Who is responsible this disaster, for the largest cholera epidemic the world has known, the 22 million people in need of immediate humanitarian assistance, including 11 million plus who are at risk of imminent starvation, many of them children, and the deaths of thousands of civilians bombed or otherwise incinerated as the collateral damage of war? All of us. This war began as civil strife between the north and south of the country united in 1990. In 2011, as part of the Arab Spring, a struggle began for a more responsive government between the entrenched regime of former President Ali Abdullah Salah and the Houthi movement, which had early popular support. Ousted in 2012, Salah later allied himself with the Houthis but was accused of treason by the Houthis in 2015 and killed as he attempted to flee the capital city, Sana’a. His successor, President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, lives in exile in Saudi Arabia. In 2015, Yemen became a battlefield for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in their proxy war against Iran, which has been said, without much proof, to be funding the Houthi (who are Zaidi, a liberal sect of Shia). The Saudis and UAE bomb and blockade ports and roads, so that food aid cannot reach starving people. They destroy sewage systems and hospitals. Yemen, the poorest nation in the Arab world, sits on the Bab al-Mandab strait, a narrow waterway linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden, through which much of the world’s oil shipments pass. Whoever controls the port cities of Yemen controls the flow of Middle Eastern oil.
To read more on this article and about Karen’s contribution click here.
Extreme Whether: Listen to Karen Malpede, playwright and director, discussing her new play about the human dimensions of facing the climate challenge as explored in her latest play, Extreme Whether— in conversation with Alison Rose Levy. Show is live at: http://prn.fm and can be heard later in the Connect the Dots archives on the Progressive Radio Network.
The book launch of Plays in Time, at the Segal Theater was an extraordinary evening of acting, text and talk. Watch the video from Howlround below, The book is for everyone who loves the poetry of resistance.
To purchase the book click here.
The drama of the thinking heart
by Karen Malpede on www.opendemocracy.net
For the past twenty-two years, Theater Three Collaborative has been producing ecofeminist-pacifist plays in New York and Europe, on a shoestring and against all odds. Now a book, Plays in Time: The Beekeeper’s Daughter, Another Life, Prophecy, Extreme Whether, documents this unlikely journey through four scripts, seven critical commentaries and 32 production photos.
Our plays are character and story-driven, creating worlds into which the audience enters in order to experience the transformations of characters caught-up in the genocidal histories of modern life. Characters are not immune from fate—they might be raped or tortured, have committed a terrible war crime, been lied about and censored—but they resist the implications of their fates and find the resources to change their story through deep encounters with others who act as empathetic witnesses. Each play is full of moments of such turnings from despair to strength, and each relies upon the witnessing abilities of others to set free the imaginative forces of resistance.
I’ve titled my preface to Plays in Time “The Drama of the Thinking Heart,” and written there that these four plays are meant to “bring us to our senses. Poetry is wild nature produced by human nature, a song between a living cosmos and an ever-emergent self. This is why preservation of life in all its sentient forms is the work of the dramatic poet and why the poet must be fiercely engaged in the exploration, creation and manifestation of justice on this earth and for earth’s creatures.”
PLAYS IN TIME
THE BEEKEEPER'S DAUGHTER, PROPHECY, ANOTHER LIFE AND EXTREME WHETHER
Plays in Time collects four plays by Karen Malpede set during influential events from the late twentieth century to the present: the Bosnian war and rape camps; the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Israel’s 2006 bombardment of Lebanon; 9/11 and the US torture program; and the heroism of climate scientists facing attack from well-funded climate change deniers. In each play in this anthology, nature, poetry, ritual, and empathy are presented in contrast to the abuse of persons and world. Despite their serious topics, the plays are full of humor and distinctively entertaining personalities.
Each play was developed by Theater Three Collaborative for production in New York and internationally in Italy, Australia, London, Berlin, and Paris.
Imagine Egypt: Cairo Today
by karen malpede
Cairo is awash in plastics, the water bottles from which everybody drinks, and worse, cheap knock-off-clothing, sneakers, flip-flops and household items imported from China spread out by peddlers on the streets. Western in design, ill-made by workers in Asia working for starvation wages, they sit waiting to be sold to Cairo’s poor.
Twenty years ago when I was last in Cairo and there was a bustling tourist trade; the street markets were of hand-crafted items, perfume oils and hand-blown perfume bottles, pearl in-laid jewelry boxes, Egyptian cotton simple scarves, Arabic books. Now these things are gone from view and it’s as if one wanders through a massive, out-door discount mall—piles of t-shirts with logos, and the like. The West has come to Cairo through China. Here is globalization and free trade for the poor. It benefits no one, destroys the old craft-based economy and vastly increases what gets thrown away.
ON WATCHING: ECO-POETRY AND DESIRE IN “THE BEEKEEPER’S DAUGHTER”
by KAREN MALPEDE
I sit in the back of the theater; that way I can watch the audience watching the play I have written and directed. I can monitor their restless movements, observe if anyone drops off to sleep, or fiddles with a phone, lighting up and distracting the immediate area. I can squirm with every squirm and wonder how or if I might make an adjustment to the staging, the acting or the text that would eliminate each moment of inattention directing any wondering mind back to the stage action.
Critic: Courtney Marie
The stirring and emotional revival, The Beekeeper’s Daughter, from playwright Karen Malpede presents both the best and worst faces of humanity in the story of an American family and a refugee from Bosnia. While this small clan seems to live in paradise on an island in the Adriatic, a brutal war is exploding only a few hundred miles away and a daughter’s return from the violence with a guest who has been deeply affected, brings familial tensions to the surface. The new production is directed by the playwright.
'Karen Malpede Imagines a Better World in The Beekeeper's Daughter'
"We are facing a crisis of consciousness. As Robert says in Beekeeper: “I want to cry out, change form, change form. It takes but an instant to see the world in a new way.”
Read the full interview in American Theatre Magazine
"How's the Weather?"
by Teresa Eyring
(ex. dir. of Theatre Communications Group) in her monthly column, p.6
"Members of our theatre community have also been at the forefront of addressing this global issue. Because of the varied nature of our form, we are blessed with multiple strengths and platforms from which to work. First, there is theatre as thing of beauty in and of itself--an art form that is made and shared collectively, and that can be a focal point for reflection and discussion that leads to action. A prime example: Theater Three Collaborative's production production of Extreme Whether, by Karen Malpede, is an American family drama involving a major climate scientist and his twin sister, a publicist for the energy industry. The play was performed in a sold-out run in New York City in 2014. It was part of the ArtCOP21 arts festival this past December, in a collaboration with the Swiss theatre company Cie de Facto. Directed by Malpede and Nathalie Sandoz (the latter also acted), the play was performed in French and English in Paris, where it was enthusiastically received."
The news from Paris - ArtCop 21
we would not have wanted to be anywhere else
Below are excerpts from Karen's blog dishing out the details of the Paris Cop21 and TTC's role creating climate change culture.
COP21: In the hands of its people alive right now lies the fate of the earth and all her creatures for the rest of time...
By Karen Malpede
Democracy works but democracy is hard work. It demands involvement from the entire civil society in order to make its way. This is not just my understanding but is that of virtually everyone who was in Paris for the COP21...
...Like the Greek theater that defined democracy, or the Shakespearean that gave us entry into the unconscious, climate change theater is classic in position and intent. Like the Greek and Renaissance theaters, climate change theater stands at the nexus of two realities—an old, wasteful, violent known world, and a newly felt, and sometimes already lived, sustainable world of insight and connection between self and others across racial, national and species boundaries, a remaking of the individual as newly responsible for a living world....
Click here to read more from this blog post.
EcoFeminism at Cop21
By Karen Malpede
Few people remember the ecofeminist movement of the 1980s, spearheaded by my friends Ynestra King, Starhawk, Grace Paley, Dorothy Dinnerstein and others. Many of the young activists from around the world living with me at Place to B in Paris for the duration of the Cop21 would have to wait decades before being born. But others like Casey Camp-Horinek, Ponca Nation elder, who spoke Monday at the Women on the Front Lines of Climate Change event, were at Wounded Knee and marched with Ceasar Chavez...
...The Indigenous women who commanded the attention of the room full of women and some men all day on Monday refer to each one of us as “my relative”.
“My relative, we can save you. We can show you how to survive on Mother Earth, if only you will listen to us.”...
MOBY-DICK OUT LOUD
ON THE WAY TO THE PARIS CLIMATE CONFERENCE
By KAREN MALPEDE
I’ve been reading Moby-Dick out loud at night, slowly, with my partner. We were on chapter ninety-three–in which the castaway Pip loses sanity after being left adrift alone in the ocean for too long while Stubb and the others rush to harpoon a whale (not the white one)–the night the Paris attacks took place.
The book is a great parable, certainly of American–perhaps of all–national life, in which the chase after the Leviathan (as Melville calls them) destroys everyone but the lowliest boatswain narrator, who miraculously lives to tell the tale. Someone must survive...Click here to read more from Karen's blog.
Reflections on The Paris Cop21, The Sixth Extinction, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, and Empire of Necessity
I've been thinking about extinction, to be precise: the relationship of abundance to extinction, in the run-up to the twenty-first United Nations Conference on Climate Change, the Conference of the Parties (COP21) and in the wake of publication of several significant books.
Click here to read more from Karen's blog.
Warscapes podcast: Karen Malpede Challenges Torture With Theater
Mary Von Aue from Warscapes asked Karen some hard-hitting, revealing questions about writing and directing "Another Life". Karen talks about the U.S. torture program and how it was used to lead us into war abroad and to create fear at home. Scenes from TTC's 2013 production are interspersed. We are pleased to have our mission of creating powerful theater to address crucial social concerns recognized on this international publication.
Although both had been feminist writers and peace activists living in Brooklyn, NY for many years, playwright Karen Malpede and poet/novelist Jan Clausen didn’t know each other very well until they spent a night in jail together following a civil disobedience arrest at the time of the Iraq invasion in 2003, after which they gradually became better acquainted with each other’s work.
Wider influence of the fossil fuel industry on culture and charities
Natural history museums are not the only US cultural institutions influenced by climate change deniers (Report, 24 March). US theatre is doing a good job of censorship of plays that attempt a new aesthetic reaction to our planetary emergency.
The Battle for Climate Justice Gets Some Drama, and a Six-legged Frog
Click here to read more of Alex Ellefson's article
Malpede has addressed other divisive issues in her dramas, such as genetic engineering and the U.S. torture program. Press notes point out that she has "adopted the Ibsenist paradigm (seen in An Enemy of the People and Rosmerholm) of setting struggles of the public interest as conflicts within a family."
Relatively recently, the climate modeling of climate scientists has allowed us to see into the future. While we don’t know everything we know enough to ask if we wish to damage the planet beyond repair in this the new Anthropocene era, when the earth’s ecosystems are being altered by human beings at an unprecedented rate.
Karen Malpede of Theater Three Collaborative sheds light on the intersection of theater and climate change, giving us an inside look at "Extreme Whether," a new play that chronicles the journey of climate change. *Art by Luba Lukova
SKEPTICAL SCIENCE ARTICLE with Jennifer Francis Ph. D.
New York was jolted into awareness of the scope and severity of climate change in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and Malpede is firm in her commitment to spread that understanding.
I knew I had to write a play about climate change. Climate scientists have been attacked, threatened, vilified, sued, and all for telling us the truth we need to hear. Our globe is heating up. And we had better change our behavior, now. This is a great adventure story: a story of bravery and commitment to saving life on earth. I wrote Extreme Whether with passion and speed, as if I were channeling the voice of the earth.
Extreme Whether. A play by Karen Malpede. Theater for the New City. 155 First Avenue. Reading April 8 at 7 p.m. (with James Hansen) and April 13 at 8 p.m. $5.
A new “eco-drama” about climate change will have two readings this month. Set in upstate New York during the record-hot summers of 2004 and 2012, the play pits brother against sister in a bitter debate about the future of the planet. In one corner is John Bjornson, a composite of famous climatologists. In the other is his twin sister, Jeanne, an energy spokeswoman married to a skeptical lobbyist. “The play poses this most difficult question of whether we can act in our own defense” when faced with a global threat, says the playwright, Karen Malpede, a twin herself. After the reading on Monday, James Hansen, the NASA climate scientist who is retiring from the agency this week, will speak to the audience on how “we are nearly out of time, if we want to avoid creating a situation that will be out of control for today’s young people.”
April 2, 2013
FESTIVAL OF CONSCIENCE TALK BY DR. JAMES HANSEN
"To Save Our Planet" followed the April 8, 2013 reading of Extreme Whether to an audience of nearly 150 people at Theater for the New City.
DAVID SWANSON REVIEW
David Swanson reviews the script of Extreme Whether in The Humanist Magazine
"Extreme Whether, a new play by the brilliant Karen Malpede tells a personal story in which everything is also political."
Dr. Jennifer Francis explains her cutting-edge theories of Arctic ice melt and extreme weather and talks about the connection between art and understanding climate change.
is a skill we need to massively acquire now as we struggle to comprehend the reality of global warming, sea level rise, and future extreme weather events.
The Brooklyn Commune’s Cultural Democracy and Representation Team, led by Kyoung H. Park, has designed an artist survey to invite artists to share their experiences working in the field in order to open up public discussions regarding diversity and inclusion in the performing arts.
Aug 26, 2013
"I walked into Another Life expecting to be brainwashed by left wing liberal proselytizing. But the play’s solid foundation in facts left me feeling both shocked by the history and inspired to reflect on its significance." -Michael DelPriori
May 23, 2013
We're featured in this issues of TORTURE: Asian and Global Perspectives
A bi-monthly magazine on the issue of torture. Torture is often used by authoritarian regimes as a means of maintaining control and suppressing dissent. Our policy is against any form of torture and creates a common platform to everyone in Asia and around the globe, to come forward to speak out against torture. ISSN 2304-134X (print) | ISSN 2304-1358 (online)