In the wake of the catastrophic Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, a widely recognized human-made disaster in which the cost of the carbon-debt accumulated by the global North after generations of colonization and industrialization is being horrifically exacted from the global South (who else), there is no more fitting time for the a play like eco-drama Extreme Whether. You can help bring it on a national tour and ensure its month long-run in at the Theater for the New City, New York City by supporting it on Indiegogo!
Author of the play and co-founder of Extreme Whether’s producing company, the Theater Three Collaborative (TTC), playwright Karen Malpede believes that culture alters consciousness and that to change our behavior, individually and as a species, we need to change the stories we tell. In the market-driven context of US theatre in which truth-telling is constantly at odds with economic-censorship, Extreme Whether tells the raw, real tale of the fierce battle waged by climate scientists to urge global governments and corporations to heed the severity of climate change being wrought by human business as usual. The play recalls both Brecht’s Galileo and Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People.
The acclaimed Malpede had already staged five plays and started her own theater when she debuted her ground-breaking work, Us, in 1970. It was directed by the great Judith Malina, of the Living Theatre. Both Malina and Julian Beck were Malpede’s earliest mentors. Throughout her career, Malpede has written and staged 19 plays, most of which she also directed. In 1995, with the late Lee Nagrin and George Bartenieff, Malpede founded The Theater Three Collaborative. TTC is dedicated to creating theater that fearlessly explores the most compelling and pressing issues of our times such as war, torture, and genetic engineering, and now, the climate crisis.
Extreme Whether has been praised by noted climate scientist and former Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies James Hansen, who spoke at the play’s standing room only April 2013 public reading. In a true homage to great playwrights like Ibsen, Extreme Whether isn’t just an eco-drama packed with stunning and sobering facts about science and the dynamics of corporate climate-change deniers, it’s also a family drama. In the work twin brother and sister, one a climate scientist, one a lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry, negotiate the conflict of their beliefs amid a struggle which is shaping the world around them. In the life-world of the play, as in our own, a young activist, an elder environmentalist, and two climate scientist must grapple with ensuring the truth they know is heard and heeded against overwhelming odds. Further, they demonstrate how it is possible to deepen their bonds of connection, love and trust while increasing their resolve in the face of potential devastation—the truth they hold is the truth upon which the survival of our species depends. This may seem overly dramatic-to some, but considering the *recent words of Typhoon Haiyan survivor Catherine Balila, from the hard-hit coastal Philippine city Tacloban, who comments on witnessing the sea swallow her home, “I thought it was the end of the world,” we are reminded that it is simply stark reality.
Don’t let the truth get washed away, support Extreme Whether however you are able today!
*The need to turn to international news sources to hear the words of survivors and learn the true costs of this ecological injustice.
For this article’s ecological and racial justice lens, I am indebted to the work of Aura Bogado, Colorlines blogger and Nation contributor, whose excellent article is linked above.