Shakespeare and Performing Arts Regional Company Theater has announced two new feature shows as part of its second annual [email protected] reading series. Presented through spoken word, the programs aim to highlight the environmental changes brought on by global warming in the 21st century. Both plays will be done as live, script-in-hand, semi-staged readings.
Producing artistic director Lisa Tromovitch described the play series as a combination of social justice, science outreach and the Tri-Valley community.
"The Tri-Valley includes two national labs and a lot of companies that engage in science and engineering. So by starting a reading series on science plays is a way of responding directly to our unique community," Tromovitch said.
The first of the two plays is Tira Palmquist's "Two Degrees". The plot follows Emma Phelps, a paleoclimatologist, as she is called to a Senate committee meeting to testify about climate and environmental legislation.
In the play, Emma focuses her work on ice caps in Greenland and conservation methods. Throughout her experience, Emma grapples with emotional and professional turmoil in her desire for advocacy.
The second play will be "Basilosaurus" by Marisela Trevino Orta, which was recently commissioned by SPARC. Its show will be the first public reading for the piece, incorporating audience members and allowing them to give feedback as Orta continues to tweak the script for a final draft.
"The play isn't just about the whale and how climate change impacted it," Orta said in a press release from the SPARC Theater. "I very much want to set the narrative in our present time since climate change is impacting our lives regularly in the form of extreme weather, rising sea levels and rising global temperatures."
Orta will be in the house for the shows, actively taking feedback from audience members.
Aside from Otra's commission, the theater has reserved an additional four other plays by various writers. Each piece intentionally comes from diverse playwrights.
"We chose to commission plays from BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color) artists," Tromovitch said. "We combined our desire to keep artists working, to reach out to our scientific community and to support those artists in our community."
"The theater communities in general in the Bay Area certainly are very engaged in social justice aspects. When we're telling stories and we're depicting people on stage, we want to reflect the whole community, not just a segment of it," she added.
Due to the intimate reading style of the shows, Tromovitch explained how each performance will be unique. The plays are read aloud with minimal production, then audience members will be allowed to engage and interact with actors, staff or the playwright themselves.
"What the audience will hear is something that no one else will ever hear again," she said. "You actually become a part of the writing process. There may very well be individual line changes from day to day."
Tromovitch shared what she feels makes the two pieces work well together, as they are from contrasting starting points scientifically.
"One starting point is when the water was sucked out of the oceans to become the polar ice caps, and then the other play talks about a point in the future when those polar ice caps melt again," Tromovitch said. "They're kind of bookends to each other with these two climate change events."
The series will be performed at the SPARC Studio in Livermore through the month of November, with "Two Degrees" shown today through Sunday and "Basilosauraus" playing Nov. 18-20. Shows begin at 7 p.m.
To find more information about the theater and its productions, visit sparctheater.org.