Background painting "Sandcastles and Pebbles" by Claudia McCabe
The 2019 PICinPEC Collective
From left to right: Grace, Julianna, Duncan, and Kate. Pictured here during a research and photography trip to Wellington Rotary Beach.
We use the term play incubation to describe the work of devising a piece of theatre over a fixed period of time. For The Keepers, we created collaboratively for two weeks, building on the prompt of "water" by exploring questions, characters, setting, photographs, conversations, and text.
This prompt came from the timing of our work overlapping with Wellington Water Week, the community's proximity to water, and the need to engage with the current dialogue and action around the climate crisis.
As part of this process, we engaged in:
finding early inspiration and provocation
choosing a story to tell
writing and world-building
refining and rehearsing
performing and talk-back
reflecting on the process
For more detailed information about this process, you can read through our lobby documentation below.
“We were improvising scenes together, and when we were talking, if it sounded like a good idea, we would write it down. If it didn’t, we would suggest things we could do to improve it... if the story wasn’t working one way we’d try to resolve it a different way until it eventually worked out."
Kate, pictured here refining the script.
"You feel more connected to the role than having an assigned role. I created her. It’s like she’s my baby. It’s something you produce. It’s weird to look back and be like, I created that. Instead of in a show where I just acted that part and multiple people have done it before. It’s just me, I’m the first person who played this character. And it’s a great feeling."
Julianna, pictured here building a set piece from debris we collected on the beach.
Where we live and how we live there are fundamental aspects of our identities. The stories we tell are intimately connected to place and our relationship to it. Especially given our prompt, we wanted to tell a story rooted in the physical and emotional geography of the County. This also meant including a sense of the people surrounding us in our community, how they engage in the space around them: we wanted to represent their voices too, not just ours.
As part of our process, we explored the community on foot, wrote and rehearsed scenes in outdoor spaces, interviewed community members using those spaces, researched local news stories, looked through maps, and talked to community members about their memories of and experiences with water. We incorporated these elements into the script and design.
“We wanted to keep it local because we didn’t want audience members thinking [water issues] were something that happened elsewhere and you don’t have to worry about this. It’s set in Wellington here and you do have to worry about this because it is an actual issue."
Grace, pictured here generating ideas while on a neighbourhood walk.
Engaging in Justice Issues
As young artists often do, our collective organically engaged in issues of justice, rights, and access as we contemplated the idea of water. The County had problems with flooding that same year and Greta Thunberg was a name we were all already familiar with.
We kept coming back to questions like:
Why is water important?
How are we caring for the water?
Are humans doing enough to ensure the future of water and the non-human environment that relies on it?
What would happen if the County experienced major flooding, water contamination, or another water emergency?
What role can we as young people play today? In a future world?
"I was feeling that if we don’t fix ourselves it’s either gonna end up something like this play or we’re just gonna be done. I’m worried. We either need to figure out a way to actually save the world or find another world. Like, it’s urgent...What would happen if humanity doesn’t save itself? What if global warming isn’t stopped? What would we have to do to survive afterward? So we wanted to write about it so people could think about that.”
Duncan, pictured here writing by the water.
The Final Piece
At the end of our two weeks, we'd written a play called The Keepers. The story is set in a near-future version of the County where there has been massive flooding and all water is contaminated. It follows four young people who've stayed in spite of evacuation measures. They've taken to living in the County's lighthouses and communicating via the lights. Ultimately, they hope to find a solution to the water issue and one day rebuilding their lives in their beloved community.
The script included elements of memories from the collective, verbatim recollections and perspectives from local community members, song, and scenes of the story between these young characters.
The Keepers was performed in August 2019 at the Studio Theatre in Wellington, Ontario.