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Where art and science meet: Full Disclosure Festival Friday and Saturday in Greenfield

Full Disclosure Festival runs Friday and Saturday in downtown Greenfield

  • Above: Director-Playwright Emma Ayres. Below: Lori Holmes Clark. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Lori Holmes Clark (standing center) and Company rehearse a dance they will perform for Crill’s Companion during the upcoming Full Disclosure Festival. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Jane Williams, Janet Henderson and Bo Henderson, all of New Salem, along with Sofia McNerney of Shutesbury and Zoe Young of Sudbury rehearse for an upcoming performance of Emma Ayres’ play, “The Water Project.” The play is a centerpiece of the Full Disclosure Festival, which runs Friday and Saturday in downtown Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Above: Janet Henderson of New Salem in a scene for an upcoming play by Emma Ayres. The play will be performed at the Full Disclosure Festival in Greenfield this weekend. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Emma Ayres Submitted photo


Wednesday, June 08, 2016

By Richie Davis

Speed dating. Refugees. Alzheimer’s disease. Quabbin Reservoir. Climate change.
They might not immediately seem related, yet everything has a way of coming together for Linda McInerney and her Eggtooth Productions’ Full Disclosure Festival, which takes place June 10 and 11 in downtown Greenfield.

With the theme, “Against the Current: Human Impact upon Place,” Eggtooth’s presentation of performance art, installation art, visual art “and art not yet named” art will take to the streets, in spaces large and small and on the Town Common with dance, theater, visual art and provocative displays calling attention to our sense of place … and examining how we affect this place and have been affected by what has gone on before.

“What we want to do is multifold,” says McInerney, who produced the first Full Disclosure Festival last June — and before that, the Double Take Fringe Festival of theater in vacant spaces and performance venues around town.

“We want to create place, to enhance place, to call attention to the beauty of Greenfield and the excitement of Greenfield, with what happened in the past and can happen in the future, to build a resonance of place through creative acts,” says McInerney, the founding director of what was formerly Old Deerfield Productions, who moved last year from Deerfield to Greenfield.

Yet in what she said is to be her final Full Disclosure Festival, McInerney also wants to create something “of deep meaning,” she says. “The thing that resonates with me more than anything is survival of the species, as ... 500 years becomes 50 years, and Miami will be gone by the time my children retire. This is huge stuff.”

To bring to life the enormity of what we’re confronting, acknowledge it or not, she arranged for “blind dates” between six researchers and six artists. They were paired off with a bottle of wine at the Greenfield downtown pub Seymour.

“Climatologists, anthropologists, historians … like so many ideas that just seem to be correct, and I’m just the little engineer to drive the train to make them happen. Everything fell into place. There was no translation (needed), no researcher speaking gobbledygook that the artist has to figure out. They ‘fell in love’ with each other before the first sip of wine, both had the same intention, wanting a way for people to understand.”

The discussions were “about the intersection of art, climate change and sense of place” and how to unleash art to deal with the profound concepts of climate change, which McInerney says has become intentionally mired in a morass of uncertainty by climate change deniers.

The discussions were about how to make those ideas real for people, said Samantha Wood, a poet and journalist who was paired with University of Massachusetts historian David Glassberg around his research into popular historical and environmental consciousness. Wood is a former Recorder news editor and now managing editor of the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

“How are you going to make hope tangible?” Glassberg asked Wood, for whom hope is linked with uncertainty, “and has a lot to do with faith. If you can hold the possibility in your heart, that’s hope — the power to face the future,” reflected Wood.

With McInerney’s encouragement, Wood’s first-ever public art installation will be “The Uncertainty Cube,” a walk-in blue-lit cube at Green Fields Market, 170 Main St. in Greenfield. There, from 5 p.m. on, visitors will be able to respond to questions posed by the artist on pieces of paper that will be left much like prayers in Jerusalem’s Wailing Wail.

“It’s a way to introduce people to the power and the responsibility of being on earth at this time,” Wood explained.

The responses will also be incorporated as part of John Bechtold’s, “Past is Prologue,” one-audience-member-at-a-time theater piece/ virtual reality game “meant to mimic small town America in the early 21st century — before rising sea levels devastated much of the world’s coastal cities and beyond with flooding, volatile weather and worsening air conditions,” in the words of Bechtold, who had his “date” with climatologist Julie Brigham Grette.

Guided individually by a pre-recorded “virtual-reality refugee” who escorts them around downtown, audience members “learn more about the darker underbelly of the future and how human escapism has exacerbated the state of the planet.”

The piece begins at 7:15 p.m. at Studio Seven, 229 Main St.

In a “Secret History Booth,” Greenfield actor Lindel Hart will interview people at GCTV studios to elicit 10-minute stories about this place — a personal story about a specific place or a personal slant on an event that happened in the area, or about a person. The collected oral histories will become a small part of what McInerney imagines will become “a kind of virtual museum” that will be tied together on the interactive, crowd-source website: historypin.org

“Reality is a construct,” she says, “so let’s hear more than one. … I want some controversial stories told. Here are the parallels we face right now: What we’ve just been through and are going through with the refugee crisis, and who’s going to get screwed more than anybody on earth? The poor. That’s exactly what happened with the Quabbin.”

Water and memory

In “The Water Project,” a theater work by Amherst playwright Emma Ayres, which is a centerpiece of the Full Disclosure Festival, Edith, a woman in her 90s, is in a nursing home. But where is she, really?

The play’s main character is trying to discover her identity through the liquidity of Alzheimer’s disease and hazy, yet vivid memories of the Swift River Valley, from which she was displaced with her family, along with hundreds of other families, before the flooding of Quabbin Reservoir in the 1930s.

“It’s such a humanizing experience to be able to step into somebody else’s history through performance,” said Ayres, who grew up in Amherst intrigued by the giant reservoir and the haunting history it whispered: Four towns were flooded — obliterated — to quench a growing metropolitan Boston’s thirst.

“The Water Project,” with music performed by the band Mama’s Marmalade, will be presented at 8 p.m. on the fourth floor of The Arts Block as a centerpiece of the two-day festival.

“As I got older, I became very obsessed with the experience of humankind’s false sense of omnipotence in regards to our relationship with the natural world,” says Ayres, who as a child took part in a summer camp dramatization of Jane Yolen’s illustrated book, “Letting Swift River Go.” “I was simultaneously fascinated with the history of this area, which drew me to the Quabbin, immediately.”

The play, which deals with a place where, “literally, history was flooded over and a lot of stories were lost,” suggests our collective responsibility to help preserve the memory of a displacement that was instrumental in shaping the life of its central character.

Yet, in a broader sense, it’s about a need to support the memories of elders, “so humankind can flourish in a sustainable way,” says Ayres.

With cast members who themselves — or whose families — were displaced from the Swift River Valley, “The Water Project” also points to the displacement of the indigenous people who had been driven out of the area beforehand, and the reality that their stories have also been forgotten.

“There are a lot of people who don’t know there used to be towns there beneath the water, or believe that everybody went willingly and is now living happily in New Salem,” said Ayres, who tapped into some of the vestigial emotions when she interviewed survivors for her research. “Its amazing how rich and deep that anger runs — the anger and hurt of displacement.”

Ayres, who works as a teacher with Enchanted Circle Theater and a musician and playwright with TheaterTruck collaborative, adds, “These traumas deeply impact us and kind of make a home within us and influence us throughout our lives in ways that are oftentimes almost indescribable. Ayres first wrote the play when she was still a theater student at the University of Massachusetts as “a platform for a conversation around the power dynamics and class issues surrounding water, (as) … a propos a lot of the issues that are rampant in this country and around the world.”

She plans to present an “immersive version” of her play Sept. 22 through 24. There, an audience will walk through the Swift River Valley Historical Society grounds in New Salem as the story unfolds.

Weaving memory, art, survival

Memory is also the theme of a sculpture by Melinda McCraven, who works as an art therapist with nursing home patients in Athol. Accompanying her sculpture of the Greek goddess of memory, Mneonsyne, in the Arts Block Wheelhouse, will be a soundscape of interviews with patients who were dispossessed by the Swift River Valley’s flooding.

Hildred Crill, a poet and biology teacher from University of Stockholm, will read her poetry on the main stage at Arts Block, with a dance performance, “Crill’s Companion,” choreographed by Lori Holmes Clark and a company of six dancers.

Clark says her work will express, through movement, Crill’s observation of how humans have appropriated far more than their share of the planet and about hope and the magic of looking and connecting deeply at objects in nature.

The festival will also include an art installation by Amy Johnquest, who met with historian Betty Sharpe, in the window at 361 Main St., near the Garden Cinema.

A “love letter in photos” to the Connecticut River Valley is a visual and sound installation by Kate Hunter, who met with climatologist Christine Hatch, will be exhibited on a 30-foot wall inside the former First National Bank building on Bank Row.

Rachel Katz, who had a “date” with anthropologist Elizabeth Chilton, will have her work on display at Studio Seven, 229 Main St.

Jazz musician Terry Jenoure, who met with beekeeper Dan Conlon, will perform “an ode to the language of bees” with percussionist Bob Weiner.

“Bees,” Jenoure reflects. “I’m thinking about how they sound together, which is uncanny because that’s also my work as a musician whose area of strength is improvisation. How do we make sound that works together?”

The final Full Disclosure Festival will be a tribute to the place that is Greenfield, that is Franklin County — and an array of “artfelt” statements about the place we all share in its past and its sustained future.

McInerney, who first brought her production skills to synthesize with critical issues as artistic director for Brattleboro’s Slow-Living Conference two years ago says, “There’s sort of a weaving that can be spoken or unspoken. It’s sort of like a poem that people receive what they want to receive. I’ll put it all out there — all the intention, all the creation is there — the linkages that humanity can make or not make.”

For the festival’s schedule, visit: www.eggtooth.org