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The Weather Project?

July 2, 2014

The first dozen times I heard about “The Weather Project” I was confused. What did they mean by “Project?” What was a piece of theatre about weather going to be? Why was it going to go on for two years? Lots of questions. And I should have had answers. I am on the board of directors of The North American Cultural Laboratory (NACL), the sponsor and creator of The Weather Project. But every time I tried to explain the project I stumbled, uttering vague allusions to climate change, community projects and ensemble theatre.

So when I was recruited as an actor to be part of The Weather Project ensemble I was filled with that special mixture of fear and excitement the unknown brings. And I said, “Yes!”

I was not entirely ignorant about climate change to begin with. I had already spent hundreds of dollars changing most of our light bulbs to LEDs and I have driven a Prius since 2008, trying to mitigate the damage I do to the planet by owning a country house. At one of the first rehearsals for the yet unwritten WP Community Pageant, I acknowledged my sense of guilt to the assembled group of theatre artists, scientists and neighbors. They did not appear to be impressed. Apparently I am not the only one shouldering blame for the imminent demise of the planet.

It all seemed so bleak to me then. Talk of the “tipping point” of carbon emissions, China’s relentless pursuit of the American dream of two cars in every driveway, mountain-top mining in West Virginia, the tar sands, fracking, etc, ad infinitum. How could a small theatre with a big name hope to break the cycle of inevitable doom? And why even broach the subject? People want to be entertained in the summer. They want to roast marshmallows by an open fire (bad carbon) and float downriver on a raft (good carbon) without thinking about whether they are killing the future for their grandchildren.

But I had agreed to sign on as an actor for this summer’s community pageant play on August 9, and somehow I had adopted the character of a cloud collector, Queen Cumulous. As I see her, QC is a regal kind of gal with a floating spirit. She is nobody’s fool. In the course of rehearsals she learns hexes with which to confront the Carbon Kings, enlists the aid of children (who are the earth’s all-time secret weapon) and sings joyously in strange tongues. Before long, she/me begins to believe things can change.