Annalisa Dias, member of The Welders playwrights collective, is not one to shy away from multiple, deeply involved, projects.
When we spoke on the phone, she had just returned from London, and was back to work at Baltimore Center Stage as the Director of Artistic Partnerships and Innovation. Amidst so many moving projects, she is also the producing playwright and director for the Welders’ HEARTSPACE, the third iteration of the year-long Welders production: HEARTSPACE the earth, that is sufficient.
How will the changing climate change our future? The stage is set for artists to deliver powerful messages on how to address our changing world. The production aims to provide hope and inspire a call to action.
“A lot of the discourse [around climate change], can feel overwhelming and disengaging,” Dias shares with DCTS. She hopes that HEARTSPACE will “bring joy, resilience and, frankly, hope to a way of relating to the climate crisis.”
HEARTSPACE is an interactive, community-engaging production, building on multiple events to invite audiences to “create, build, and dance as we envision a hopeful future beyond the climate crisis.”
HEARTSPACE will be on stage from November 19-23, at Anacostia Playhouse with events starting on November 16. The production works with a variety of artists; dancers and puppet-makers working with original music and audio-visual design to develop its different elements.
One of the more powerful impressions that the performance seeks to leave audiences with is how we treat our natural and environmental resources. A number of the production’s design elements are taking inspiration from the fossilized remains of Lucy, the 3.2 million year old hominid discovered in Ethiopia. The production will represent the fossil’s remains, and our connection to it, in different ways.
Lucy’s remains, discovered in 1974, were studied, assembled, and displayed on tour through the United States in 2007. Fearing damage to the fossils, they were returned to Ethiopia in 2013.
“There’s something to be said for the ways the climate crisis itself has to do with how we objectify land, humans and animals; we turn them into commodities to be exploited and profited, Dias says.
“We’re working so differently from how most [theatrical] productions work. We’re still working with the script that will fill in the HEARTSPACE residency. There are still a whole lot of different possibilities of how Lucy will be encountered by the audience.
“One of them that we’re pretty sure we’re gonna land on in the black box space [is] to have giant oversized ribs, like the ribs of Lucy, as the set. When I say oversized, I mean people can walk into it. We’re creating Lucy’s heart space in the black box.
“We have people with skills in community organizing, gardening,” Dias says, “People who are working in a cross-disciplinary aspect. We haven’t pigeon-holed ourselves into any traditional [theatre-making] boxes. Some of the people in the ensemble have a lot of skills in puppetry.”
The creative team for HEARTSPACE have developed a prototype of a Lucy marionette, to give a voice to the early hominid.
“That’s something that puppets have to teach us about the way we turn beings into objects. What would it be to place ourselves in relationship to this ancestor? [Lucy] is not just an object. She’s a being that had been put on display.”
HEARTSPACE concludes the year-long Welders’ project: the earth, that is sufficient. This is less a sequel, more a continuation of a work that builds from its previous iterations: Spring Mushrooms and Harvest Mushrooms performed in different venues earlier this year.
A lot of the work seen at Anacostia Playhouse is built on these previous projects, reworked and reconfigured for HEARTSPACE.
So why not just one production? Why a year-long set of works?
“It’s definitely really intentional. ” Dias says. “With the climate crisis, a lot of the climate science is: ‘We don’t know where we’re going.’ We don’t know what the world is going to look like and we need to build the sidewalk as we’re walking.”
In addition to the HEARTSPACE performance, there will be puppetry workshops and a puppet show presented on the first day (Nov 16). Cabarets and gardening lessons are being held throughout the event. A parade and a dance party are a part of closing day celebrations (Nov 23).
The creative team is also integrating an app to accompany a three-mile walking tour, to highlight the creations and content built by the earth team.
HEARTSPACE events, Nov 16 – 23, 2019:
Unless otherwise noted, all events take place at the Anacostia Playhouse, 2020 Shannon Place, SE, Washington, DC 20020
Saturday, November 16
11 AM – 1 PM
Family friendly Puppet Build/Puppet Show
5:30 PM – 7 PM
Mushroom Universe Community Art Build ?
Sunday, November 17
Exact times TBD
Urban Foraging Class, Clothing Swap
Tuesday, November 19
7:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Wednesday, November 20
7:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Thursday, November 21
7:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Friday, November 22
7:30 PM – 8:30 PM
9 PM – 10 PM
Climate Justice Cabaret
Saturday November 23
HEARTSPACE: Re(sturgeon)ce Puppet Parade
Starting at Anacostia Playhouse, proceeding to Anacostia Park.
8 PM – 9 PM
HEARTSPACE closing performance?
9:30 PM – 11:00 PM
Climate Futures Dance Party!
More details on the sufficient earth website.