This Weekend: In a One-Woman Show, the Ocean Defends Herself Against Climate-Change Politics

Photo by Maggie Hall / American Repertory Theater Production

NOW THAT SPRING has sprung, and Mother Nature is making herself known with sudden showers and plenty pollen, Houston has somehow emerged as a hub for all things oceanic. At Heidi Vaughan Fine Art, there’s still time to see Houston artist Janavi Folmsbee’s exhibit Calm Water Color Storm, featuring paintings, sculptures and lenticulars inspired by the colors of underwater marine life. And this weekend at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, the Ocean herself appears in her own, one-woman theatrical spectacle, Ocean Filibuster.

Created by playwright Lisa D’Amour and director Katie Pearl, who produce experimental theater together as PearlDamour, Ocean Filibuster stars Jenn Kidwell as both The Ocean and Mr. Majority, a scientifically challenged politician who has introduced a bill to divide the ocean up into manageable bodies of water, and thus put a halt to the wildfires, droughts, and coastal damage all attributable to climate change. Obviously, the Ocean ain’t having it, and she attempts to block the bill with an impassioned filibuster, using both poetic language and stand-up humor in a desperate attempt to steer the world away from the abyss.

Like all of PearlDamour’s productions, Ocean Filibuster was developed over several years, with D’Amour in the role as writer, but with plenty of input from Pearl, Kidwell, and the show’s composer, Sxip Shirey, as well as climate change scientists at the Harvard University Center for the Environment. When D’Amour and the team asked the scientists early on what they hoped the play would convey about the ocean, after a long pause, one said simply, “Wonder.”

“The scientists talked to us a lot about how long their work takes, and how detailed it is,” says D’Amour. “It helped us think about how we will never understand everything about the ocean. At some point, we just have to honor the fact the ocean works. (laughs) We have to respect that, and work with that.”

Ocean Filibuster runs March 25-27 at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts.

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