Climate Change Theatre Action 2021 to feature short play readings, discussions


  • The LAVA Center in downtown Greenfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Left to right: Doug Selwyn of LAVA, Vanessa Query of LAVA, and local resident Edie Heinemann during participate in the a series of short climate change plays as part of the 2021 Climate Theatre Action series. This year, members of the audience to participate by reading parts in the play. Contributed Photo/Vanessa Query

  • JuPong Lin moderates the opening program of The LAVA Center's Climate Change Theater Action 2021 on Saturday, Oct. 2.

Staff Writer
Published: 10/8/2021 1:52:48 PM

The LAVA Center in Greenfield is hosting Climate Change Theatre Action 2021, a series of readings of climate change-themed short plays — and community members are invited to participate.

Founded in 2015, Climate Change Theatre Action is a worldwide series of readings and performances of short climate change plays presented biennially to coincide with the United Nations COP meetings. This is LAVA’s third time affiliating with the event, which is only held every other year.

Plays this year are now being performed on Thursday evenings and midday Saturdays, except for the weekend of Halloween, until Nov. 20 at The LAVA Center, 324 Main St. There is no cost for admission, but they are “gratefully accepting donations” to support the artists and The LAVA Center, said Jan Maher, founder of the nonprofit Local Access to Valley Arts (LAVA) which operates the LAVA Center.

According to a press release for the event, 50 professional playwrights representing all inhabited continents, as well as several cultures and Indigenous nations, are commissioned every other year to write five-minute plays about an aspect of the climate crisis based on a prompt. This year’s prompt is “Green New Deal.”

Local members participated in the Climate Change Theater Action series for the first time in 2017 before the LAVA Center was open, Maher said. Organizers worked with the Greenfield High School Drama Club, Greening Greenfield and others to produce that year’s set of plays that were performed by the high school students.

“Two years ago, just before we opened the LAVA center, we got ambitious and decided we wanted to read all 50 of the plays,” Maher said. 

The plays were directed by three different directors, Maher included, and were held in different locations around downtown Greenfield, Shea Theater and Greenfield Gallery. The finale of the 2019 event was held in conjunction with a Racial Justice Rising meeting at the First Congregational Church on Silver Street.

Maher said this year’s plays will be held as open readings, and anyone who wishes to participate and read a part in the play is welcomed to volunteer. Of course, others are welcome to simply listen and watch. The scripts of the plays will be projected on the wall of the LAVA center while those “acting” out the play read along.

According to Maher, each session will be moderated by and include reading of a foreword from each playwright about what inspired their story. The LAVA Center invites all community members, regardless of acting experience, to join in reading the plays. At each session, participants will read four or five of the short plays. The readings will be followed by discussion of the issues addressed in the plays, of how those issues play out locally and about what we can do to combat climate change.

The local group is one of the only participants to perform all 50 of the entered plays, Maher said. While others select individual plays and create full productions with sets and where actors memorize lines, she said “that takes time and money” that the LAVA Center may not have. Regardless, simply reading the plays is a powerful event in itself.

“Two years ago, the last time we did all 50, we found there was still such power in just reading and feeling the voices from all over the world,” Maher said. “... To read, and hear, the ideas and ways different people from all over the world take different approaches to looking at issues of climate change — you feel the power in that.”

The plays “run the gamut” in both genre and subject, though they are all ultimately intertwined with themes of climate change and environmental awareness. According to Maher, key-terms that plays are tagged with include: clean air and water; oil industry; climate change denial; science; colonialism; California fires; sustainable living; and more.

Mahers said some plays are more abstract while others are naturalistic. One trend she noted is that writers from North America, the United States and Canada, take a more comedic or ironic approach in their writing, while playwrights from other parts of the world can be more serious in their tone. While varying in style, the environmental themes that connect the plays demonstrate the ways we are connected as citizens of one world.

The events will take place on Thursday evenings at 6 p.m., and 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays in October and November. Remaining scheduled dates are: Saturday, Oct. 9; Thursday, Oct. 14; Saturday, Oct 16; Thursday, Oct. 21; Saturday, Oct. 23; Thursday, Oct. 28; Thursday, Nov. 4; Thursday, Nov. 11; Saturday, Nov. 13; Thursday, Nov. 18; and Saturday, Nov. 20.

This Climate Change Theatre Action 2021 event is funded in part by Greening Greenfield, concerned citizens building a more resilient Greenfield by advancing sustainable practices. 

Zack DeLuca can be reached at or 413-930-4579.


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