Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Climate Chronicles: Generations

This was a pivotal week for my Climate Reality slideshow as I presented to two diverse groups, age-wise. One was comprised of teenagers, the other, mostly elderly folks. Both groups were small — under 20 — but often times, small is better.

On Wednesday, I delivered the slideshow to members of Young Actors Theatre, an Indianapolis theater company comprised of young people with an emphasis, often, on hard-hitting social issues. I had met with YAT’s Executive Artistic Director Justin Wade early in the year, as I’d heard through the proverbial grapevine that he was wanting his troupe to tackle climate change in an upcoming performance.

Justin and I met and discussed his options, from acquiring an existing play about climate change (I’m guessing there are not very many), to creating an original work. I advocated for the latter, not the least because that’s how I got into journalism in the first place; as a playwright. But that’s another story for another column.

Justin invited me to present to his troupe, in hopes the slideshow might spark some interest and inspiration. I pondered whether to change the slideshow in any way, as I’ve been presenting to college-aged people, on up, then decided not to.

No reason these kids couldn’t see the same “hardcore” version I’ve been showing the past couple of months.

We gathered at the Athenaeum, I showed the slideshow, and then the dozen or more members of their troupe put their chairs in a circle and began to talk. Sure, there have been extended Q&A and discussions after previous slideshows, but this was different. Each teen was instructed to say how the slideshow made them “feel.” The predominant responses were “sad” and “mad.”

Sad and mad that they’d been handed such a fouled up world.

Almost every single kid said they’d been aware of the issue for some time. And that in their daily lives they encountered peers and family members who thought global warming was a liberal hoax.

Then they began the brainstorm session for the play they might or might not write. I enjoyed the ideas so much, the brainstorm session often felt like a play to me! I’ll keep you updated on progress of this impressive group of young theater artists.

On Saturday, I rode my bike to Robin’s Run to deliver the slideshow to a group of residents and their friends. It was a bit of struggle, despite the discovery of a bike lane on 71st Street. The wind was slamming into me the whole time, and I had to have my entire gear with me, including a heavy projector.

But unless I absolutely have to drive, I don’t do it, and not even the prospect of a nearly 20-mile ride on a windy day was going to stop me.

I have a bit of a history with Robin Run as my mother-in-law lived there for a few years. Most of my associations with the place are positive. And I worked in a nursing home for four years out of college, so I know these are little worlds unto themselves, as lovely or horrible as the people inside want to make it.

Robin Run is obviously a vibrant, thriving place, full of highly intelligent and engaged individuals. I was invited to this show by one of Indiana’s most esteemed and active warriors for the ecosystem, John Gibson, and I was honored to present the slideshow to him and his colleagues.

As I bicycled home, it struck me just how lucky I am to have this excuse to enter the subcultures of others. The slideshow is a gift to me and, I hope, to others. In 14 presentations since October, I’ve made a lot of new friends, and that, to me, may be the most important thing we can do, as we figure out how to deal with this eco-mess we’re facing. Make friends; build community; solutions will unfold from there.