In a Time of Change: A Performance by Writers, Artists and Scientists (2007/2008)

The performance of In a Time of Change: A performance by writers, artists and scientists was presented March 21, 2008 at Pioneer Park Theater, Fairbanks, AK to over 350 members of the public. The program featured readings by Alaskan writers, including former Poet Laureate of Alaska, John Haines, John Morgan, Marjorie Kowalski Cole, Carolyn Kremers and Teri Viereck, an original play by former Poet Laureate of Alaska, Anne Hanley which featured BNZ scientist Teresa Hollingsworth. An original modern dance piece based on 25 years of LTER data tracking plant succession following the Rosie Creek wildfire was performed by Deliquescent Designs (BNZ scientist and dancer, Mary Beth Leigh, with Stephanie Dixon and Tamora Satterfield of New York City and Karen Voyles of Oklahoma City). An original story and song co-written by Susan Grace and Mary Shields was performed along with schoolchildren, entitled What’s a Shrew to You? This story with accompanying song was later published as a children’s book with illustrations by Jon Van Zyle. [Link to book site – http://www.maryshields.com/shrew/index.html]. Local folk singer Susan Grace served as emcee of the performance and performed a number of songs, including her original song based on her experience at the BNZ workshop, entitled Adaptation. Scientific presentations were made by Terry Chapin and Roger Ruess. Sculpture and photography by Mary Matthews, Douglas Yates, Jamie Hollingsworth and Lorien Nettleton were integrated into the show. The production was directed by Anne Hanley and produced by Mary Beth Leigh.

Deliquescent Designs (L to R Tamora Satterfield, BNZ scientist Mary Beth Leigh, Karen Voyles and Stephanie Dixon) perform a modern dance piece, Casting Shadows, based on 25 years of post-fire plant succession data.

Program introduction by John Morgan:
“What does it mean to live in Alaska at this moment in human history and Earth time?
We are a group of writers, artists and scientists exploring the natural world in interior Alaska in a variety of media. The idea for a collaborative performance was born over a long evening of discussion around a campfire near Poker Creek where scientists from UAF and elsewhere are doing research into the long-term effects of the Boundary Fire of 2004. The scientists wanted to share their information and to broaden their understanding of the area by bringing in people with very different ways of seeing it. We agreed that there is an unusual richness and joy in the community of arts and sciences, in the coming together of insights from many different perspectives and disciplines. Blending our talents and knowledge, we are seeking an expanded vision, hoping to find ways to preserve and enhance our community in a changing world. We hope you find our presentation entertaining and enlightening.”

Writers, artists and scientists explore the landscape at Caribou Poker Creek Research Watershed (Photo by Marjorie Kowalski Cole)

In a Time of Change arose out of a field workshop for writers, musicians, dancers, visual artists and scientists in September, 2007.  The trip was co-lead by special guests Frederick Swanson and Kathleen Dean Moore, the originators of the first series of LTER writers’ workshops at Oregon’s Andrews Experimental Forest LTER.

The group of writers, artists and BNZ scientists visited Caribou Poker Creek Research Watershed (CPCRW), within BNZ LTER, to observe forest burned from a recent year of severe wildfires, melting permafrost and the plants inhabiting the site. The group shared not only information and research about the fires, but memories and emotions from the summer when thick smoke filled the air almost continuously. In the evening, the group gathered around a fire for dinner and reflected upon the day’s discussions and enjoyed environmental folk songs by group member Susan Grace. The following evening, the group gathered for a potluck with readings by the group participants. The group brainstormed about a way to share their experience with the public, which ultimately developed into the performance In a Time of Change.

(More on “In a Time of Change”)

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