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The Weather Project: Forecast calls for epic event!

The River Dancers, Isabel Braverman, left, Corinna Grunn and Carrie Mellinger, flow through a scene.
Photos by Sandy Long

By Sandy Long
August 6, 2014

TOWN OF HIGHLAND, NY — Whether the weather cooperates or not, an event of epic proportions will storm into Yulan, NY this weekend, raining down upon the Yulan Ball Field in the Town of Highland, on August 9 at 6:30 p.m. as The Weather Project Community Play premieres.

Stilt walkers, dancers, singers, Cloud Collectors, Solar Munchkins, Sound Painters, the Fossil Fuel Gang and meteorologist Stu Starkweather will tackle the challenge of climate change in a Wizard of Oz-like journey.

The free one-time-only outdoor performance is the culmination of a massive year-long community arts and science exploration that included residents, artists and scientists in dialogue about the subject of the weather.

It’s something that director Tannis Kowalchuk of NACL Theatre has anticipated for a very long time—most of her life, in fact. From the days when, as a child, she organized theatrical programs for her neighborhood, to today, as the artistic director of the acclaimed NACL Theatre based in Highland, Kowalchuk has nurtured a desire to involve her community in the process of creating theatre.

“As humans we all need some kind of collective creative experience to be happy and connected,” said Kowalchuk. “That’s what makes for a successful extended community. I feel my own personal happiness is very much a result of having the opportunity to make theatre and be a creative being.”

In 2012, while thinking about NACL’s next show, Kowalchuk became preoccupied with climate change and the idea of inviting all members of her community to join NACL in making a play about the issue. “I desired to instigate a conversation, and at the same time, to offer the experience of collective creation to as many people as possible,” said Kowalchuk. “And so The Weather Project was born.”

Never before has the scale of Kowalchuk’s vision been so massive. With a cast of more than 30 professional actors and community members ages four and up, in addition to other non-acting participants and a year-long series of workshops and other activities focused on the science of climate change, Kowalchuk has found herself at the center of a whirlwind of creative energy.

“The most challenging and gratifying part has been organizing well over 50 people’s schedules and helping to illuminate each person’s vision for their contribution in the arena of acting, singing, dancing, stilt-walking, writing, music-making, design—all the elements that have gone into this collective Herculean production,” she noted.