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Penguins on stage and street in climate change action – Massey University

Donning Catherine Bagnall's costumes for the 'Becoming Penguin' walk are fourth year fashion students Jacob Coutie, Jordie Agnew and Hannah Tate.

Donning Catherine Bagnall’s costumes for the ‘Becoming Penguin’ walk are fourth year fashion students Jacob Coutie, Jordie Agnew and Hannah Tate.

Using theatre to turn people into penguins is a symbolic way to highlight some of the planet’s most vulnerable species in this year’s global Still Waving: Climate Change Theatre Action events in Wellington.

Co-organiser Massey University’s Associate Professor Elspeth Tilley says a number of Massey staff and students will become “human penguins” on stage and in the streets of Wellington this Labour Weekend. They are showcasing how artists and performers can respond to environmental and social issues – in this case, the serious threat of global warming to the existence of Antarctica’s penguin populations.

Her new play, The Penguins, is being performed in 14 locations worldwide from Paris to Shanghai and the United States, as well as at Massey’s Wellington campus on Labour Day (October 23). It is one of nine short plays on climate change featured at this year’s Still Waving: Climate Change Theatre Action event at Massey – part of a six-week global movement to highlight climate change issues through performance.

In a thematic prelude, participants will take to the streets of central Wellington in the “Becoming Penguin” performance walk, starting at the Cenotaph at Parliament at 1pm and heading to Massey University. Participants (everyone welcome) are invited to join the walk wearing whatever black and white items they have in their wardrobe that lend a penguin “look”.

Creator of “Becoming Penguin”, Massey lecturer in the School of Design | Ngā Pae Māhutonga, Catherine Bagnall, is an artist whose work focuses on the edges of fashion studies and its intersection with performance practices.

“In the context of questions about humanity’s relationship to the planetary ecosystem and how we categorise ‘other’ species, ‘Becoming Penguin’ explores ideas about the end of the Anthropocene and the beginning of the post-human world,” Ms Bagnall says.

The walk, she says, is to “symbolise support for all the communities taking personal responsibility for climate action at a local level, when governments won’t.”

World premieres staged

Following the “Becoming Penguin” walk, a cast of 23 – including well-known Wellington professional actors alongside Massey students and staff – will stage nine climate action plays by writers of Jamaican, Portuguese, Native American, Australian, New Zealand, Samoan, Canadian and US descent at the campus Theatre Laboratory from 2pm.

“The programme includes two world premieres – a short play by Samoan writer/director Ian Lesā about Pacific Island climate change issues, and one by Kat Laveaux, a playwright from the Lakota tribe in the United States, who visited Massey University earlier this year as part of the National Expedition and Internship Programme, and became keen to participate in Climate Change Theatre Action,” says Dr Tilley.

Also featuring is work by another School of English and Media Studies playwright, Philip Braithwaite, whose short play “Swing Among the Stars”, about colonising Mars, is scheduled for nine Climate Change Theatre Action performances globally.

In her play, Dr Tilley explores human behaviour and attitudes from another species’ perspective (one in which the males ‘stay home’ and look after the young) to provide an innovative and often hilarious framework into which serious ideas can be woven.

“It’s also a way of giving people hope. Penguins have been around for 60 million years, whereas humans have been on the planet for about two million years,” she says. “I think it’s important not to hit people in the face with a message.”

Art and creativity on social issues

Dr Tilley, a lecturer in theatre studies in the School of English and Media Studies – including the Creativity in the Community paper (in which students apply skills in theatre, performance, film-making, creative writing, media practice or mixed media to developing a creative response to a social issue or community need) – is the author of several award-winning plays on climate change and social issues, and producer of the biennial Aotearoa Climate Change Theatre Action events, launched in 2015.

She says the process of creating and performing theatre about a difficult and daunting topic can be empowering for participants and audiences.

“People get bombarded with information about climate change and the doom-filled scenarios – the result is that people become complacent and switch off,” she says. “The performances in Still Waving will entertain, console and confront you with works that are humorous and intense, problem-illuminating and solution-focused, powerful, sometimes funny, sometimes catastrophic, often moving and inspirational.”

All proceeds from the Still Waving event go to youth-led climate action group Generation Zero, which is campaigning for a zero carbon New Zealand economy.

For more information, check out the Still Waving: Climate Change Theatre Action Facebook page.

Source: Penguins on stage and street in climate change action – Massey University

Still Waving: Climate Change Theatre Action

CCTA Aotearoa's Nine Playwrights

CCTA Aotearoa’s Nine Playwrights

With only a few days to go until Still Waving: Climate Change Theatre Action Aotearoa 2017, we are excited to bring you the full programme.

On October 23, we will be staging nine short plays at 2pm in the Massey University Wellington Theatre Laboratory:

  • Start Where You Are, by E. M. Lewis – a poignant look at how to remain hopeful in the face of calamity, by an award-winning Oregon-based playwright
  • The Penguins, by Elspeth Tilley – lifting our spirits through comedy as we find out what penguins think of humanity
  • Truth Like Water, by Kat Laveaux – premiering a compassionate view of the world from an emerging Native American playwright whose tribe stands in defiance at the Dakota Access Pipeline protests
  • A Girl’s Dance, by Ian Lesā – also a world premiere: a powerfully spiritual work from a new voice, Samoan New Zealand playwright and director Ian Lesā
  • Brackendale, by Elaine Ávila – a wry comedy about Bald Eagles and rubbish dumps, from a Canadian/US writer of Azorean Portuguese descent
  • Single Use, by Marcia Johnson – a Jamaican playwright’s very modern sketch of online dating in the 21st century and how we decide what’s important in a partner
  • Swing Among the Stars, by Philip Braithwaite – an interstellar future, from the imagination of a multi-award-winning New Zealand playwright
  • Homo Sapiens, by Chantal Bilodeau – a trip to the zoo, a century from now. What will be on exhibit? A provocative comedy from the co-founder of Climate Change Theatre Action, and;
  • Rube Goldberg Device for The Generation of Hope, by Jordan Hall – an interactive experience that will get you off your feet, from a fresh and inspirational Canadian playwright.

There will also be readings of the three winning pieces in our Climate Change Theatre Action Creative Writing Competition, and a short talk from Generation Zero about what you can do to pitch in in the fight against climate change.

Still Waving is a paperless event, so please download our full programme in a PDF file, here for more detail of cast and crew: Still Waving Final Programme PDF 3

If you haven’t got your ticket yet, get one now from EventFinda: https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2017/still-waving-climate-change-theatre-action-aotearoa-2017/wellington

And don’t forget, you can also join the ‘Becoming Penguin’ Performance Walk just prior to Still Waving if you’re keen – details at http://sites.massey.ac.nz/expressivearts/2017/08/30/becoming-penguin-a-performance-walk/


Becoming Penguin, a Performance Walk.

King Penguin Couple. Photo credit David Stanley (Creative Commons 2.0)

King Penguin Couple. Photo: David Stanley (Creative Commons 2.0)

In your white shirts and black tails, in your navy-blue dresses or in wetsuits and flippers or anything ‘penguin’ from your wardrobe please come and join us on a waddle, a ‘becoming penguin’ performance walk. If you have nothing penguin in your wardrobe, come with a penguin state of mind and we will supply you with some penguin apparel.

As part of Still Waving: Climate Change Theatre Action Aotearoa, performance artist Catherine Bagnall will lead the walk from Parliament grounds up to Massey University Wellington, where the climate change play ‘The Penguins’ will be performed, along with other climate action plays from Aotearoa and the world. Walking from Parliament into the community symbolises the theme of Climate Change Theatre Action 2017 – that there are steps communities can take to act together and make a positive difference, even when governments won’t. And that every step, however small, is important.
It’s free to join the Becoming Penguin performance walk: if you then want to stay for the theatre action show, tickets to see the plays are available by small koha to Generation Zero and can be purchased from https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2017/still-waving-climate-change-theatre-action-aotearoa-2017/wellington
To join ‘Becoming Penguin’, meet at the Cenotaph next to Parliament Grounds at 1pm on Monday October 23.
Catherine Bagnall is an artist whose work focuses on the edges of fashion studies and its intersection with performance practices. Testing the bounds of self through performative acts of ‘dressing up’, her research offers new modes of experience that use performance to explore the possibility of becoming ‘other’, a different species for example. In the context of questions about humanity’s relationship to the planetary ecosystem and how we categorise ‘other’ species, ‘Becoming Penguin’ explores ideas about the end of the Anthropocene and the beginning of the post-human world.
See more about Still Waving: Climate Change Theatre Action Aotearoa 2017 at https://www.facebook.com/events/163701054197372/
Still Waving is part of the worldwide series of CCTA readings and performances of short climate change plays presented biennially in support of the United Nations Conference of the Parties. CCTA is organised globally by the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts, NoPassport Theatre Alliance, The Arctic Cycle and Theatre Without Borders. CCTA Aotearoa is brought to you by Massey University School of English & Media Studies, in partnership with Massey University Ngā Pae Māhutonga – the School of Design, Generation Zero, and Pukeahu ki Tua: Think Differently Wellington.

Still Waving: New Voices Climate Action Creative Writing Competition

Write, inspire and win! As part of our Climate Change Theatre Action 2017 event, ‘Still Waving,’ the Massey University School of English & Media Studies and Pukeahu ki Tua: Think Differently Wellington are proud to announce a climate action creative writing competition for new and emerging writers.


1st place – $300

2nd place – $200

3rd place – $100


Thematic guidelines

The creative writing competition aligns with Climate Change Theatre Action’s global theme, which is that “climate action requires a hopeful vision of the future”.

CCTA 2017 asks the question: “How can we turn the challenges of climate change into opportunities?”

We are looking for creative writing that provides hope, inspires positive action, and illuminates individual and collective solutions.  There is still time to change the course of climate change: it is not too late, but it will require a collective will the likes of which planet earth has seldom seen. How can you use your writing, your particular voice, to help people visualise, embrace and achieve that change? What specific images can we find to illuminate why people should care about the environment? How can we move people without preaching to them or becoming didactic?

Politics is a surface in which transformation comes about as much because of pervasive changes in the depths of the collective imagination as because of visible acts, though both are necessary. And though huge causes sometimes have little effect, tiny ones occasionally have huge consequences. . . (Rebecca Solnit)


We are accepting five types of entry:

  • Twitterature (tell a story in no more than 140 characters)
  • Flash Fiction 100 Words (tell a story in exactly 100 words – no more and no less)
  • Poetry (any length up to 200 words)
  • Short stories of up to 1200 words.
  • Personal essays of up to 1200 words.

To enter:

Please email your entry in the body of an email to climateactionwriting@gmail.com by 5pm (NZ time) on Friday October 6, 2017.

Entry is open to all new and emerging writers. We take this to mean anyone who has not published a book.  By entering you agree to publication of your entry and your name in social media. You may enter as many different items as you like.  Please include your full name and the city or town you live in, with your entry.

The judge:

We are grateful to Dr Ingrid Horrocks from the School of English & Media Studies for agreeing to judge the Still Waving Climate Writing competition.  Ingrid’s creative publications include two collections of poetry, a number of personal essays, and a genre-bending travel book.

More about Still Waving:

Still Waving, our 2017 Climate Change Theatre Action Aotearoa event, will take place on October 23 at Massey Wellington campus. There will be plays, readings, a performance art installation, and of course the prize-giving announcement of the fabulous winners of this competition!  Still Waving is part of the global Climate Change Theatre Action 2017, which involves 50 selected plays (including two from our school) and more than 180 events in 41 countries. This is the second time we have participated in CCTA and we are delighted to be back! Check it all out at: https://www.facebook.com/events/163701054197372/