Interview with Chantal Bilodeau, playwright and translator

interviewed by Eleonora Milazzo – ACCEL European Fellow

Illustrations by Dayanita Ramesh - ACCEL North American Fellow
Illustrations by Dayanita Ramesh – ACCEL North American Fellow

1.What made you choose the Arctic as a topic for The Arctic Cycle?

I’m originally from Canada and the Arctic is part of what I consider being Canadian. But I had never been that far north until I went to Alaska on a summer vacation in 2007. The place blew me away. It was so unique and foreign; it really captured my imagination.

At that time, I was well aware that things were changing and climate change was becoming a major threat. When I came back, I started doing research. I realized that the Arctic is the canary in the coalmine, and that understanding the issues affecting it will help us understand how climate change is affecting the rest of our world.

2. What is “The Arctic Cycle”?

The Arctic Cycle is a series of eight plays, one for each country in the Arctic . It started in 2009 with a commission from Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company to write the first play, “Sila,” set in Canada. Seema Sueko, then Artistic Director of Mo`olelo, had developed the Green Theatre Choices Toolkit – a tool to measure the environmental impact of theater and help the industry make choices that do not cause long-term damage to our communities. She wanted to commission a play that would put this backstage sensibility on stage. I told her about my idea and she was able to secure a grant for “Sila.” The play premiered in Cambridge, Massachusetts in May 2014. I’m now working on “Forward,” the second play of the Cycle, set in Norway.

For each play, I’m trying to collaborate with at least one artist from the country where the play is set. This is important to me because the process models, on a small scale, the type of collaboration that is needed on a much larger scale to address this issue.

3. What is your blog “Artists and Climate Change” all about? What is the role of art in communicating climate change?

I started the blog two years ago in an effort to find other artists working on the issue of climate change. At first, I only found a handful of them. But in the last year or so, the number has grown exponentially.

Mainstream media tends to focus on apocalyptic scenarios: climate change is bad and is only going to get worse. I felt we needed to expand that paradigm. We have to be able to look at the positive and see the difficulties ahead as creative challenges. If we’re responsible for creating climate change, then surely, we have what it takes to address it.

Artists can help us connect emotionally to this complex issue. Some artists highlight the beauty of what is there: they invite us to connect to, and appreciate nature. Others warn us about the negative impacts of climate change: they show processes that may not be visible to the naked eye. A third category is that of “artists-activists:” they encourage us to take action within our own communities. And so on. Artists are positive creative forces. They can communicate difficult problems in a way that helps people move forward with courage and a sense of hope.

Find out more about Chantal Bilodeau >


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the interview subject alone and do not necessarily reflect the official views of ACCEL, ELEEP, Ecologic Institute, or the Atlantic Council


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