Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Theatre dept. tackles climate change

By Samantha Hopkins

During a free one-night-only event, the SUNY Plattsburgh Department of Theatre is presenting the Climate 10-Minute Play Festival with performances in various downtown Plattsburgh venues. Consisting of eight 10-minute plays focused on the effects of climate change, the festival will run from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 5. They’ll take place in four different venues in downtown Plattsburgh: The Strand Center for the Arts Gallery, Old Soul Design Shop, Chapter One Coffee & Tea and Lake City Coworking.

Theatre Department Chair Shawna Mefferd Kelty conceived of the event, along with student directors Kelly Donovan, Taniya Jarrett, Janiah Johnson, Shahsha Montgomery, Kaleb Pecoraro, Kaitlyn River and Suzanne Tracy. In hopes of bringing theater to new and innovative spaces, the plays will be performed every 20 to 30 minutes in all four venues, two plays in each one, giving audience members the option of viewing just one or all eight plays. 

The Department of Theatre is working in collaboration with First Friday, a community event oriented around showcasing art and music of businesses in downtown Plattsburgh. Mefferd Kelty’s hope for the festival is that it will provide an understanding within the community of how climate change is affecting the world.

“All of the plays focus on climate change,” Kelty said. “Not just the facts of climate change, but how we are experiencing it, how it impacts the lives of people and all of Earth’s inhabitants and neighbors.” 

Among the plays are “To You & Me & the Ocean” by Melanie Coffey, set in the future about two friends longing for a time before climate change altered their lives. “An Umbrella for the End of the World” by Julie-Anne Whitney presents the audience with an adult’s indifferent perspective on climate change being challenged by a child’s more curious one. All of the plays offer their own unique perspectives on the issue, adding their own spin that serves as a way to make the audience members think differently. For anyone interested in reading the plays before the festival, all eight of them can be read on the New Play Exchange website, newplayexchange.org.

With multiple plays being performed, all of the people involved in putting the festival together will get a chance to showcase their talents. There will be 17 student and faculty acting roles and four student stage managers across all eight plays. Kelty said that this was one of the goals of the festival. In addition to spreading awareness about climate change, Kelty expressed that she wanted “to celebrate a diverse group of playwrights, stories, perspectives and lived experiences.” 

The festival is being presented with the intention of bringing awareness to the issue of climate change while simultaneously celebrating the art and stories that the talented community of Plattsburgh is offering. “There are so many people from all over our campus and our community who are helping bring this festival to fruition,” said Kelty. “Theater is a space to create empathy and understanding. It’s a space to start conversations and connections.”

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