WILD puts the world in better hands at the ART
The inspiration for her new show, WILD: A Musical Becoming, can be traced to her move to a tiny town in the Catskills some years ago, the playwright, performer, and activist formerly known as Eve Ensler, who now travels by V., the first of her adult life, had been an avowed city dweller. However, after being diagnosed with uterine cancer and having what she calls a near-death experience, she decided to quit urban life and
I went through a very shamanic experience where my whole life changed, and I realized my disconnection from nature was actually one of the reasons I got sick, V adds.
The experience not only provided her a sense of peace and equilibrium, but it also boosted her commitment to the topic of climate change and climate justice. It was so aware of how precious this all is and how we have to give everything in our lives to make sure we protect it and not destroy what's feeding us, what's giving us air, what's giving us water, what's giving us our life, she adds V-Day, a global organization that aims to eliminate violence against women and girls.
So when V was approached by Tony Award-winning Broadway actor Idina Menzel about the possibility of working with hit-making pop singer Justin Tranter on a new musical project, she leapt at the chance. I was like, The only thing I want to write about right now is climate change. Because what else should we be thinking about? (Wicked), Rent, the Frozen films)
The resultant program, WILD: A Musical Becoming, is set to premiere at the Loeb Drama Center of America on Sunday through Jan. 2. Menzel will appear in the program on Dec. 23, with a yet-to-be-named actress taking control of the rest of the run.
Three artists, together with Tranter's songwriting collaborator Caroline Pennell, began writing the musical at V's farmhouse upstate three years ago, and the bucolic atmosphere influenced the project's creation. Letting the presence of this place marinate us and cook us and embrace us has been so important to what the program has become, V adds.
The performance, which is created as a fable, is set in the tiny town of Outskirtsia, where Bea (Menzel) is struggling to hold onto her family farm while trying to connect with her passionate teenage daughter, Sophia (teen TV star YDE). Her daughter, with whom she already has a fraught relationship, isn't pleased. The mother is simply trying to survive and has mouths to feed, and we don't have to do damage in the process, says Tranter,
Sophia's spirited best friends Forte (Paravi Das) and Possible (Luke Ferrari), and Oaks (Brittany Campbell), a caring science instructor who instills in her students a love for the Earth and an awareness of the dangers posed by climate change, are among the other characters. These beings come to town to give the adults a way out, but in the minds of these youth, that may potentially destroy everything, V adds. So the children take on extreme actions, and their
They are desperation to make their parents realize the need of the climate crisis speaks to today's generational divide, says ART artistic director Diane Paulus, who is directing the program. In our musical, parents and children are equally concerned about the future, equally concerned about paying the bills and survival, she says. But the young people are saying, I dont want the future that youre trying to hold onto, he adds.
Living in a magical fable was a lightbulb moment for the creators when they decided to tell the tale. Reality feels less believable than fiction at this point, V, who chronicled her cancer battle in her play "In the Body of the World" at the ART in 2016.
Tranter, Pennell, and guitarist Eren Cannata explored the passion and urgency of young climate activists like Greta Thunberg and the Sunrise Movement in the 90s, as an openly queer kid at the Chicago Academy for the Arts, in the 1970s, Tranter acknowledged that they were once an accidental teen activist, spearheading an AIDS benefit variety program where students wrote scenes and performed songs. Its that beautiful teenage delusion where you think you can change the world, and
Tranter has become one of pop music's most in-demand songsmiths, helping write hits such as Justin Bieber's Sorry, Selena Gomez's Good for You, Imagine Dragon's Believer, DNCE's Cake by the Ocean, and Fall Out Boy's Centuries. But, in their spare time, Tranter reverted to their love of folk music, in particular the acoustic stylings
Despite the fact that the sonic palette of "WILD," draws from a variety of influences, ranging from soaring, folk-pop ballads to foot-stomping, hook-laden pop anthems.
Paulus told her collaborators last year that WILD might be fast-tracked if they didnt follow a conventional development path. This tale needs to be heard now, she says.
The regenerative practice is being presented in a stripped-down setting, with a set that reuses the risers and runways from the ART's other fall shows, minimal design bells and whistles, and vintage clothing that's been repurposed and reworked. Were thinking about regenerative practice and what it means to be a green theater, Paulus says. We're thinking about regenerative practice and what it means to be a green theater,
The musical's metaphorical condenses with the musical's message: "We understand our patterns, we understand the damage and the harm we're doing to the planet and our future." "So how do we adapt?" is a consciousness shift, a willingness to think about changing the paradigm."
Watching a WILD rehearsal that included members of the Boston Children's Chorus last month was deeply moving and powerful, V adds, because they were teenagers singing about their future.
I hope audiences will be awakened to the magic inside them, and when we awake, we begin to realize that we are capable of transform human consciousness and alter our destinies.
Christopher Wallenberg can be reached at.
A MUSICAL BECOMING IS BECOMING FOR A BUSICAL BECOMING
The American Repertory Theater presents tickets from $25. 617-547-8300 at the Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle St., Cambridge, December 5-Jan. 2. Tickets are available for $25. 617-547-8300,