Midterm Project Planning: A Series of One Acts

One of the biggest draws for taking Green World, was the idea that we would be using art to advocate the change we wanted to see. As a theatre artist at Tisch, I experience  first hand almost every day the transformative power of art and how it is able to reach and affect people in ways formal communication is unable to do.  So from the onset of my midterm project, I knew that I wanted to utilize the arts in some way.

An Unfortunate Pattern

Throughout the first couple of weeks, we explored the anti-climate change movement/cover-up and tobacco industry in Merchants of Doubt, the oil fracking industry and resulting environmental impact in Gasland, the destruction of the earth’s most precious carbon sinks, water sheds and endangered ecosystems in Garth Lenz’sThe True Cost of Oil” exhibition, the dire consequences of coal-mining on our water in our discussion with Bonnie Gestring, and our battle for water rights as more corporations, such as Nestle, seek to privatize water for profit.

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An unfortunate pattern became apparent to me.

  1. In all, if not many, of the issues we discussed a large corporation was either linked or directly responsible for the major damage done to the environment.
  2. Worst, in most of these cases they take little to no responsibility for what they have done…
  3. …despite large groups of people being detrimentally affected by the act or the consequences of the act.

Then came the question: How? How could the people on the top make the decisions that ruin people’s lives and put their health in jeopardy? How could the workers on-site go through with the fracking or the mining, that not only endangers themselves but others? How could the people living near and who are affected by these actions tolerate the dire consequences unjustly acting on them?

A Human Approach

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Many answers came to my head, that were condemning and accusatory. I realized though, if I thought of it from an actor’s perspective (one that looks at the human being, their objectives, and actions objectively) then the results were much more interesting and compelling. I realized with all the propaganda, strategies, politics, and naming calling and blaming involved with these issues, the best thing to do might be to strip the issue down to it’s human core.

“Let’s make everyone human beings,” I thought. Instead of using the labels, and generalizations, why don’t we give real faces and voices to all sides of the issue and see what comes of it. I believe it will allow people to come to their own conclusions and figure out what is wrong.

Taking a form

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Upon realizing the type of story I wanted to tell, and the spotlight I wanted to give to  the three perspectives, I decided to do a series of one act plays. The form of a straight-play (as opposed to a musical) tonally fits my story, it also has a flexible enough form to play around with length. Also, the idea of creating a live experience is important the purpose of my plays. Creating a live experience allows it to forever live within those who see it. It also has the vivacity to make a large impact on spectators. Moreover, plays/drama were in my range of capability. As an actor and beginning screenwriter, I know how scripts are constructed and what they give to us and the audience.

Loose Structure of the Play:

For What It’s Worth (Working Title)

Part I: How now, Sir 1%? (Run time: 45 min)

Focuses on the CEO of either an existing Energy company who has just read the environmental impact report on a new hydraulic fracking site.

Part II: Stuck in the Middle With You (Run time: 45 min)

Focuses on two workers on a hydraulic fracking site, one who is unaware of the impact of what they are doing and who is far too are.

Part III: Save me from Ourselves (Run time: 1 hr)

Focuses on the community surrounding the fracking site of Part II, specifically on a family of five who are noticing the impact on their happiness and well being.

Note: The series of short plays are meant to be performed in one sitting, and are meant to exist in the same universe.

Research and Character Construction:

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The issue I run in to whenever I write, is if I’m authentically capturing an experience or culture that I am/was not apart of. The only thing I can do to combat inaccuracy is to do the research, or in this case read first hand accounts, documentaries, and news articles. Not only will this provide much more accuracy in my story, but also give me the groundwork for the kind of people that exist on all three sides of the issue.

Here are the sources I am perusing, on top of using NYU’s JSTOR:

For the corporations: Propaganda, Merchants of Doubt, The Corporation

For the workers: Quora digest, Web articles, Fracking jobs site, interviews

For the citizens: Gasland, online articles, books, other documentaries 

Moving Forward: 

Much of the research still needs to be completed. After that, I need to create the entire story as if it were one long play, then figure out the different angles in which I approach the same story for the individual plays. I plan to hold a sort of informal reading of the plays, or at least parts of the plays if time doesn’t permit. I’m not sure as of it how I will be making a difference to 10 people I do not know, but for now, my idea is to tape the reading and put in online and share it on a couple of social media platforms.