Last Summer, the pollution/climate crisis that is eating away at our world came to my hometown of Redding, California in the form of devastating wildfires. My family and I went to a favorite vista spot and watched as 300 foot high flames ate the western edges of our hometown. Once the smoke cleared, so did the view of the future. The longterm effects of these fires will be incalculable: the town’s economy may never be the same.
Through it all, Raphi and I and everyone we know worked around the clock to help. Refugees packed the local schools, where locals attended to them. Several people we knew, ranging from ages 10-75, were brought from the Red Cross staging area to stay at our house, where my mom cooked big batches of spaghetti. A whole room was cordoned off for a large number of nursing kittens. It was a harrowing time of community engagement that we were honored to be a part of.
As if that weren’t enough for us to handle, the fires came in the middle of the Shasta College Vocal Institute, a program my parents teach for local aspiring singers. The program was a week in to its three week run when the fire shut it down. Students went to be with their families, some having lost their homes.
Raphi and I spent that week coaching and staging with the singers who wanted some normalcy. Many people needed comfort amidst the drama unfolding around us, something music is able to provide in spades. In the end, we were able to come back for the last week of the program and put on our final show after all.
What an ending to that terrible chapter.
The following day, I began to look for another project that could unite the community even further. I ended up conceiving of a show that would explore America’s involvement in another major crisis, one almost as all-encompassing as the climate crisis is today: the first World War. Like the Carr Fire, it swept through communities. Like the climate crisis, it created a new world with vastly different features than the old one.
And the hundredth anniversary of the Armistice was swift approaching!
I had written shows before, but always adapted from a pre-existing work and never anything with this kind of scope. I was nervous and excited. I set about writing a first draft of a script, and watched as it evolved before my eyes into a two-hour multi-media musical review show. November came, and Over There: The Great War premiered to a nearly sold out house. The community loved it!
Now, I’m saying yes more. I’m looking for ways to stay involved in the kinds of theatre that feel necessary, because right now we are all living on borrowed time. I’ve said yes to musicals, yes to Shakespeare, yes to teaching. We are at a crisis point, and the arts are needed now more than ever. I know that it has healed my soul in these troubled times to start making theatre out of the questions: what does the community need? And how can I provide it? Yes.
Love to all!