Climate change takes center stage in ‘Ocean Filibuster’ at A.R.T.
The global climate crisis takes center stage in “Ocean Filibuster,” running at the American Repertory Theater at Harvard University through March 13. Audiences are immersed in a Senate chamber of a global governing body where two parties, Mr. Majority and the Ocean, argue their cases.
Mr. Majority has introduced an “End of Ocean Bill,” hoping to manipulate the body of water into a more profitable entity. The Ocean, backed by a choir, is there to fight for the survival of the planet. Jennifer Kidwell plays both those opposing characters, embodying both the stark differences between viewpoints and the contradictions within us.
“It points to the paradox that we humans tend to embody. We’re made up of water, it birthed us, yet we act as though we are better than it — that it is not us, that we are not it,” says Kidwell. “We’re invested in a fiction that there is a distinction between our bodies. I think we also tend to ‘other’ those whose opinions we do not share, and it’s more interesting and true to me to dare myself to locate what I would disavow in myself.”
Audiences, too, may look inward after experiencing the performance, identifying the ways in which they’ve unconsciously supported Mr. Majority’s argument.
Climate change is not new territory for the Obie Award-winning creative team Lisa D’Amour and Katie Pearl, who go by PearlDamour. Many of their previous productions have explored the relationship between humans and the earth, and the cognitive dissonance humans experience in that connection. As the climate crisis has gotten more dramatic, so too have their productions.
The A.R.T. and Harvard University Center for the Environment commissioned “Ocean Filibuster,” and D’Amour and Pearl had dialogues with local scientists to channel effective and accurate messaging. Though working with dire subject matter, the performance is engaging and comedic, featuring music by Sxip Shirey, abstract video projections by Tal Yarden and dramatic costumes from designer Olivera Gajic. The Ocean cracks jokes and performs songs, smiling in the face of danger.
Kidwell hopes the performance will remind audiences how each of their actions impacts the ongoing climate crisis.
“I hope the audience will change its relationship to the ocean,” says Kidwell, “and feel a part of it enough to consider the impact of using and/or purchasing things made of plastic, when throwing things ‘away.’ Before clicking “Buy” online, remember there is only one Amazon we can’t live without.”