State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

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A Different Climate Change Message, on Stage Nov. 2-3

By Kate Rack

The Superhero Clubhouse eco-theater group will be putting on a double-billed performance – “Don’t Be Sad Flying Ace!” and “Field Trip: A Climate Cabaret” — on Nov. 2 and 3 at the Theater at the 14th St. Y, 344 East 14th Street (between 1st and 2nd Aves). This is intended for audiences of all ages, and best for kids ages 5+. Created through a PositiveFeedback-sponsored collaboration, the first act tells the story of how people respond to extreme climatic events through the eyes of a dog who is stranded on the top of his dog house, swept away by a hurricane. This is followed by a cabaret inspired by seven extraordinary female scientists of Columbia University’s Earth Institute. Watch as the story unfolds in their field camp, as we see how scientists collaborate to help combat climate change.

Jeremy Pickard of "Don't Be Sad Flying Ace!"
Jeremy Pickard of “Don’t Be Sad Flying Ace!”

As research continues to show how drastically Earth’s climate is changing, it is important to find effective ways to communicate these issues. One important and emerging form of communication is to discuss climate change by using art as a catalyst. PositiveFeedback recently spoke with Jeremy Pickard, the “captain” and artistic director of Superhero Clubhouse, and Nicole Davi, a climate scientist at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory featured in “Field Trip: A Climate Cabaret to hear more about the project. Pickard noted that the public is constantly infiltrated with images and messages from the media, and artists are oftentimes the ones making the media; the public is surrounded by it. “Because art is everywhere, it has the responsibility to take into account how it can help us,” Pickard said.The best art nudges us forward.”

The ubiquity of art certainly means that it has great potential to influence, and the advantage that theater has over other art forms is that it can be a uniquely personal experience for the audience. Those in the audience are directly involved in the art because they have the opportunity to react to what they have seen. According to Pickard, “When you have an audience in the room, you can engage with them and can talk to them immediately. It is very direct.” And that is exactly what Pickard does. A question and answer session with the performers and scientists that help inform the work often follows Superhero Clubhouse’s performances and allows a discourse to begin right away.

play advertismentNicole Davi, a postdoctoral researcher at Lamont-Doherty, agrees with Pickard that art and science are at an important crossroads, and she is a strong proponent for exploring the possibilities that this intersection has. Davi spoke about how scientists are trained to communicate to the world through written publications, which are for the most part very short. Davi explained that usually her goal is “to get as much information across with the least amount of words and with very little room for opinion or emotion.” This can make it challenging for the public to connect with scientists, but this play does a great job of doing just that. The production is a rare peek into how scientists collaborate and work together in the field, and lends a much more personal side to a largely impersonal area of study. Pickard believes that the only solution to climate change is through collaboration, and this story shows how that is possible.

PositiveFeedback is an initiative of the Earth Institute at Columbia University that supports collaborations between scientists and artists and create events and opportunities where they can meet and learn from one another.

Superhero Clubhouse is a group of artists and activists working at the intersection of theater and climate science who create original work meant to spark conversation in their audiences and their larger community.

Both performances are part of Marfa Dialogues/NY, an examination of climate change science, environmental activism and artistic practice happening this October and November in New York City. A collaboration between the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Ballroom Marfa and the Public Concern Foundation, Marfa Dialogues/NY features more than 20 Program Partners, and a spectrum of exhibitions, performance and interdisciplinary discussions at the intersection of the arts and climate change. See the schedule of events here.

Book your tickets here before they run out! Don’t forget to use the special discount code for friends of PositiveFeedback, PF2013.

Kate Rack is a climate and society student at Columbia University and an intern at PositiveFeedback.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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