Of boats and butterflies
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
An uptick of performances set in the great outdoors this summer has meant that patrons of the arts in Whatcom and Skagit counties have been able to enjoy quality theatrical fare without having to give up the revelations of the evening’s waning light.
Caravan Stage Company is upping the ante. Unlike Western Washington University’s “Commedia in the Park,” iDiOM Theater’s stellar season of free offerings at Maritime Heritage Park—which are set to continue starting Thurs.., Aug. 9 with a Robin Hood redux—or Skagit Northwest’s “Summer of of Blood” happening through Aug. 18 at the Rexville Grange Amphitheater, the performances of Nomadic Tempest beginning Aug. 7 at Zuanich Point Park open after the sun has set, and take place on a boat.
Watching a climate-focused rock opera set on a watercraft isn’t an everyday occurrence, but the Amara Zee isn’t your average stage, and this is not a typical theater troupe. The community of nomadic artists comprising the cast and crew of the Caravan Stage Company don’t just learn where to hit their marks, they also practice their craft while living on the tall ship—a replica of a Thames River sailing barge that toured the world for 30 years before recently returning to its home port in Victoria, B.C. It’s a demanding living environment where they also develop self-reliance, confidence and motivation.
“The Amara Zee serves as our floating performance venue, as well as our communal living environment,” organizers say. “In this way, the Caravan provides a sustainable model for harmony and diversity. We collaborate on all aspects of the production, performance and maintenance of the ship. As a community, we hope to exemplify the virtues of effective, sustainable and self-organized living.”
With Nomadic Tempest, the company brings even more attention to its environmentally focused ethos. Audiences assembled onshore to watch the action will be privy to a mythical saga of four monarch butterflies searching for refuge on a drowned planet. Aerial acrobatic artists embody the butterflies, and soaring vocals, spectacular lighting and visual projections add elements of magic to the exploration of climate change and environmental preservation.
Serving as a metaphor for today’s climate refugees, the monarchs sing in their own tongues from four global regions—the Salish Sea, Syria, China, and Mexico. Kanandra, the singer-narrator, can foresee the future, but is cursed by the SwallowWarts (who represent the oil industry), so nobody believes her prophecies. Since she understands and speaks the languages of all species on earth, she finds herself left with only the butterflies, who work with her to protect and save the planet.
Those in attendance at the Nomadic Tempest shows can thank Students for the Salish Sea, who did the legwork to get the Caravan Stage Company to dock at Zuanich Point Park for the week—making for unforgettable summer nights under the stars.
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