University of Mississippi Department of Theatre and Film brings family-friendly street performance to community
The University of Mississippi Department of Theatre and Film is joining a global movement to draw attention to climate change through theater.
On Friday, October 1, 2021, the department will present “Dreaming Green,” a short, family-friendly street theater-style event featuring large puppets, during the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council‘s Goodnight Market from 5 to 8 pm in the Old Armory Pavilion.
The production is part of the 2021 Climate Change Theatre Action event, in which more than 60 organizations across the globe showcase works of climate-inspired theater.
Director Lauren Bone Noble, assistant professor of movement for the actor, was compelled by the idea of participating in a global theater activism event – but originally conceived of the program as a staged reading.
“Climate Change Theatre Action has curated 50 short plays, and participants can pick as many or few of those as they want,” Bone Noble said. “I thought, ‘I’ll pick 15 or so and do a one-hour reading that will be low-tech but high-impact.'”
The reading was planned to take place at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center, but when Wayne Andrews, director of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, presented the notion of performing during the Goodnight Market, Bone Noble began to reconceive the event.
“I thought with people milling around, we don’t really need to do a reading,” Bone Noble said. “So that was the evolution from doing a reading to doing something that’s much more of an action and emerging organically out of the market itself.”
Two plays – “When,” by Wren Brian, and “The Penguin,” by Nicolas Billon, both Canadian playwrights – will be performed together three times over the course of the market between 5 and 8 p.m. “The Penguin,” which Bone Noble described as “a funny little fairy tale allegory,” has been sandwiched between sections of the poem-like “When” to create a single piece.
Alex Stoll, a sophomore from Stringer who is in the bachelor’s of acting for stage and screen program, will perform the role of the Actor – essentially, the narrator – in “The Penguin.” Stoll said he enjoyed this production for the way it uses humor to deliver an important message.
“It’s serious – especially at the beginning and in the end, where it’s supposed to be almost magical – but it’s funny,” Stoll said, adding that he had to take breaks during rehearsing with a friend who plays the Penguin because he couldn’t stop cracking up.
Besides portraying the Actor, Stoll, who attended the Mississippi School for the Arts and is among 11 students involved in the production, will be one of three performers responsible for maneuvering a large, three-piece whale puppet in the dance-like poetic portions of the performance.
“All the interactive street theater I’ve ever done has had some visual element to it, something that says, ‘Look at me! Look at us! We’re doing something!’ and draws attention,” said Bone Noble, who conceived of the whale puppet, which, in keeping with the event’s theme, has been made primarily from recycled materials. Students Ava Greer and Kayla Jacobs assisted with its construction.
Bone Noble said the whale and ocean theme were inspired in part by one of the plays being about a penguin, but that also she thinks of the ocean as “an indicator of our climate’s wellness or disease, and that caring for it, tending to it and listening to it seem to be good things to do.”
Everything came into focus when Andrews suggested centering 2021’s final Goodnight Market – an outdoor gathering featuring food, entertainment and vendors that takes place in the Old Armory Pavilion every first Friday from May through October – around the environment, with “Dreaming Green” as entertainment.
“Our vision of the Goodnight Market is that it would be a community experience mixing art, food and experiences,” Andrews said.
“Through this partnership with the University of Mississippi Department of Theatre and Film, we hope to offer a community experience at which there is learning, entertainment and community-building.”
Local environmental organizations such as Delta Wind Birds, Recycle Mississippi, and the Sierra Club, as well as university departments and groups, have been offered free booth space to share information and resources with market attendees, along with the regular vendors usually found at the market.
Performing “Dreaming Green” in the midst of an outdoor market will provide important experiences for Ole Miss students, Bone Noble said.
“On an academic level, I think learning how to do interactive theater is a really great experience,” she said. “There’s no proscenium, no walls, no lighting, no sound. There are people standing around; maybe they’re talking.
“It’s very Shakespearean in some ways … so we want to have that experience of interactive theater in a found space, which I think is great for young actors.
“And then on a more global scale, the importance of using art to bring attention to marginalized people, to injustice, to social situations – whatever issues of import – and to know that you have power; I think it’s important for young actors to … really feel in their bones that the work they do can matter.”
Stoll said that he has never done this type of interactive theater among a crowd that may be present for things in addition to the performance, and though he is a bit nervous, he’s positive overall.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I think it’ll go well. I think we will do beautifully.”
By Katherine Stewart