Photo by Chloe Ellingson
Written and Performed by Alanna Mitchell
Directed by Franco Boni, with Ravi Jain
Produced by The Theatre Centre
Thursday, April 7, 2022 | 8:00 PM
Friday, April 8, 2022 | 8:00 PM
Saturday, April 9, 2022 | 8:00 PM
About the Show
The ocean contains the switch of life. Not land, not the atmosphere. The ocean. And that switch can be turned off.
Stanford Live presents The Theatre Centre’s Sea Sick by Alanna Mitchell. Sea Sick is a critically acclaimed production about climate change and the state of the global ocean, which has toured Canada and the world. Experience this powerful story in which Mitchell uses science and delicate wit to tell us about her journey to the bottom of the ocean, the demons she discovered there, and her hope for the future.
Mitchell is an award-winning Canadian journalist and author (New York Times, CBC’s Quirks & Quarks, Globe and Mail, and more) who writes about science and social trends specializing in investigative reporting. Sea Sick is inspired by her international bestseller and award-winning book of the same name.
Praise for Sea Sick
“What is the most important show on the Fringe? It might just be Sea Sick.” — Lyn Gardner (Stagedoor)
“This show is designed to hit you hard with the facts and agitate your wounds with the artistry. It compels you to think, to act, and ultimately to heal.”
— The Feminist Fringe
“a remarkable feat of storytelling and reportage”
— The List
“Sea Sick is a quiet call to action, a reminder of our responsibilities, and a crucial examination of an underexposed issue.”
— The Arts Desk
★★★★ – Edinburgh Fringe: Top 5 Shows to See
— The Financial Times
— The Scotsman
— Edinburgh Festivals Magazine
“Sea Sick is a crucial lesson on climate change that we all must hear.” — The Skinny
Best of Edinburgh Festival List
— The Times
"The most important tale of our times told by a masterful storyteller" - WINNER of the The 2019 Infallible Awards at Edinburgh Fringe
Written and performed by Alanna Mitchell
Directed by Franco Boni, with Ravi Jain
Set & Costume Designer: Shawn Kerwin
Lighting Designer: Rebecca Picherak
Sound Designer: Tim Lindsay
Stage Manager and Touring Lighting Designer: Melissa Joakim
Produced by The Theatre Centre
Stanford Live Season Sponsor:
PROGRAM SUBJECT TO CHANGE. Please be considerate of others and turn off all phones, pagers, and watch alarms. Photography and recording of any kind are not permitted. Thank you.
HEALTH AND SAFETY: Masks are no longer required for indoor performances but are strongly recommended.
About the Theatre Centre
The Theatre Centre (Toronto, Canada) is an internationally recognized live-arts incubator that serves as a research and development hub for the cultural sector. They are a public space, open and accessible to the people of their community, where citizens can imagine, debate, celebrate, protest, unite, and be responsible for inventing the future. The Theatre Centre’s mission is to nurture artists, invest in ideas, and champion new work and new ways of working.
TURNING SCIENCE INTO ART
So, how do you turn a science book about the ocean into a play? And, more to the point, why?
Well, that part of the story starts three years ago with the first expedition of the North American branch of Cape Farewell, a group inspired by the British visual artist David Buckland. David decided more than a decade ago that scientists knew about climate and ocean change, but that artists didn’t, so he began putting them together. Often in the Arctic. Often on ships. Often stuck in the ice. It was hard to get away. So people talked.
And astonishing stuff started emerging. Music, avant-garde visual art, theatre, literature. After I met David for the first time, I read the British novelist Ian McEwan’s book Solar, the first part of which is based on McEwan’s own ice-fast Arctic adventures with David and others on one of the Cape Farewell journeys. It was hilarious. It was searing. It was all about climate change, slyly inserted into a rollicking good tale about a shady physicist.
So when David invited me to take part in a small North American version of the Artic expedition—which took place, wryly, at the Palais Royal in Toronto overlooking Lake Ontario with a few dozen artists and scientists from all over the continent—I just said yes. Again, a raft of fascinating art has come out of that, culminating last fall with the Carbon 14 show at the Royal Ontario Museum.
But for myself, I wasn’t expecting much. I was at the meeting simply as a source of information for the artists and, on the final morning of the meeting, as the final speaker, I tossed off a short talk about my adventures writing my book Sea Sick. Unbeknownst to me, however, Franco Boni, artistic director of The Theatre Centre, was in the audience.
That’s when it really started to get interesting. Franco got in touch with me a few months later and asked me to give a talk to a bunch of theatre people who were gathering in Toronto for a conference. I remember it was a Sunday morning and I had a couple of other talks to give that afternoon, but I really wanted to say yes to Franco and so I did. It turned out it was on a stage in the café in the basement of the Drake Hotel—lights and everything—and I confess perhaps I hammed it up a bit more than I do sometimes.
Well, a few months after that, I hear through Claire Sykes, who runs Cape Farewell in North America, that Franco wants me to turn my book into a one-woman show, with me as the performer. I thought he was crazy, but I met with them at a café on the Danforth. They were convincing. It would all be oral, they said. I would only have to tell my stories the way I usually do, shape it a little bit, maybe fashion a new start and end, and voila! There would be our play.
I said yes. And then began the most difficult journey of my life. For months, Franco and Ravi Jain, the artistic director in residence and I met to talk about why. Why had I written about the ocean? Why had I gone on all those journeys? Why had I become a journalist? Why did the story mean so much to me? Why had I agreed to make a play?
I talked and talked and, because there was a blackboard in the makeshift office we were in, I would leap up from time to time to write stuff on the board, to show Franco and Ravi what I meant. And every time I would explain something, either Franco or Ravi would say: “There’s more.” And I would try again. It was like being enveloped in a world of tough intellect and tougher love. There was no hiding.
Eventually, it all came down to this: Why does art matter?
My hope is that you’ll find some answers in our play. It’s what we grappled with for all those months.
And I came out of it convinced that we won’t find the solutions we need for this high carbon world we’ve created until we rewrite the story about how it all ends, and rewrite how we feel about that. So ultimately, the answer lies in culture. In emotion and psychology and all the other things that make us uniquely human. In art, that is to say, which has the potential to take us on journeys we could never take any other way.
The play didn’t turn out the way Franco promised, by the way. It is not just oral. At a fateful point in the process, I transcribed the tapes we were making of the play and then, we had a script—all 10,000 words of it—and we starting honing it, making it leaner and clearer. And then—worst thing of all—I had to remember all those words, all in order. Pure hell for a journalist, who’s trained never to tell the story the same way twice!
—by Alanna Mitchell, 2014
In 2012, I was invited to attend Cape Farewell Canada’s Carbon 14 Workshop. Scientists, journalists, business people, politicians, religious leaders, and artists assembled at a waterfront location in Toronto to learn how we could collectively respond to the climate crisis. How could we work together to communicate the truth about climate change.
One of the most profound moments that weekend was listening to a talk by science journalist Alanna Mitchell. Her words hit me like a "thunderbolt." I remember leaving her talk feeling anxious and helpless. What could I do?
A year later, The Cape Farewell Canada Foundation and The Theatre Centre partnered to present a multi-arts festival that featured work by artists responding to issues of Climate Change. Together with Ravi Jain, we began working on a theatre piece that weaved Alanna’s personal story with her journeys to learn what was happening to the global ocean. Sea Sick had its first public workshop at that Festival.
Sea Sick is an example of the critical role our cultural community and artists can play in communicating truth. That is what makes what we do so dangerous, because we have the ability to communicate a new cosmology.
—Franco Boni, Director
Resources for Further Information
Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis, Alanna Mitchell, McClelland & Stewart, 2009
Praise for the book Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis
“Alanna Mitchell has brilliantly woven together the threads of science taking pace all over the world pointing to an accelerating crisis in the world’s oceans…The climate crisis is more an ocean crisis. That she still finds reasons to hope is one reason you must read this book.” —Elizabeth May
“A riveting book of revelations about earth’s largest and most important habitat.” — Australian biologist and author Tim Flannery
“Sea Sick is the most comprehensive book to date on the state of our oceans. With a writer’s eye for detail and a reporter’s expertise in pulling in disparate information, Mitchell has woven a powerful and deeply unsettling story about our collective abuse of the cradle of all life. Fortunately, she also gives us hope and a path forward if we have the wisdom to act.” — Maude Barlow
Dancing at the Dead Sea: Tracking the World’s Environmental Hotspots, Alanna Mitchell, Key Porter Books, 2004
The Weather Makers: How We Are Changing the Weather and What It Means for Life on Earth, Tim Flannery, HarperCollins, 2006
Here on Earth: A Natural History of the Planet, Tim Flannery, HarperCollins, 2010
Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and our Last Chance to Save Humanity, James Hansen, Bloomsbury, 2009
Citizens of the Sea: Wondrous Creatures from the Census of Marine Life, Nancy Knowlton, National Geographic, 2010
Blue Hope: Exploring and Caring for Earth’s Magnificent Ocean, Sylvia Earle, National Geographic, 2014
The World Without Us, Alan Weisman, HarperCollins, 2008
The Geography of Hope: A Tour of the World We Need, Chris Turner, Vintage, 2008
Charles Darwin’s Beagle Diary, ed. R.D. Keynes, Cambridge University Press, 1988
Some of the scientists you’ll meet in Sea Sick, the play:
Alanna Mitchell (Writer and Performer) is an award-winning Canadian author and journalist who writes about science and social trends. Her international best-selling book Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis won the prestigious Grantham Prize for excellence in environmental journalism in 2010. With the help of The Theatre Centre’s artistic director Franco Boni and Why Not Theatre’s founding artistic director Ravi Jain, Mitchell turned Sea Sick into a one-woman non-fiction play that she has performed across Canada and internationally, her first foray into theatre. She has written for the New York Times science section, National Geographic, Canadian Geographic, GQ Magazine India, Maclean’s Magazine, Broadview Magazine, the Globe and Mail Newspaper, the Toronto Star Newspaper and is an award-winning radio documentary maker for CBC Radio’s Quirks & Quarks. Her fifth non-fiction book, The Spinning Magnet, about the Earth’s magnetic field, came out last year. She is working on a play with Boni and Jain based on her fourth book, Malignant Metaphor: Confronting Cancer Myths. Its working title:The Interview. (Photo Credit: Chloe Ellingson)
Franco Boni (Director) is the Artistic and Executive Director of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival in Vancouver, Canada. Prior to this, he served as Artistic Director of The Theatre Centre in Toronto for sixteen years. Franco has also served as Festival Director of the Rhubarb Festival at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and Artistic Producer of the SummerWorks Theatre Festival. He is a recognized cultural innovator, facilitator and community builder with a demonstrated track record of restoring financial stability and artistic credibility to local arts organizations and festivals for over two decades. In 2019, he directed Prophecy Fog by Jani Lauzon at The Theatre Centre. He is the inaugural recipient of the Ken McDougall Award for emerging directors, was awarded the Rita Davies Cultural Leadership Award, for outstanding leadership in the development of arts and culture in the City of Toronto, and in 2013 he received the George Luscombe Award for Mentorship in Professional Theatre.
Ravi Jain (Co-Director) is a multi-award-winning artist known for making politically bold and accessible theatrical experiences in both small indie productions and large theatres. As the founding artistic director of Why Not Theatre, Ravi has established himself as an artistic leader for his inventive productions, international producing/collaborations and innovative producing models which are aimed to better support emerging artists to make money from their art.
In all of his work, exemplified by projects like A Brimful of Asha and his reimagining of classics like Hamlet and Salt-Water Moon, is Ravi’s passion to inspire Canadians to look at new ways of representing Canada on national and international stages. Currently he is working on a new adaptation of The Mahabharata with the Shaw Festival and a new project with Canadian writer Nicolas Billon on a new play titled CODE, which completed a one week residency at the Barbican Theatre in London, UK.
Ravi has been shortlisted for the prestigious Siminovitch Prize (2016 and 2019) and won the 2012 Pauline McGibbon Award for Emerging Director and the 2016 Canada Council John Hirsch Prize for direction. He is a graduate of the two-year program at École Jacques Lecoq. theatrewhynot.org
Shawn Kerwin (Set and Costume Designer) Set and Costume Designs include: The Bakkhai (Stratford Festival), A Tender Thing, Great Expectations, Our Town, (Soulpepper), The Soldiers Tale (Signal Theatre), Dead Metaphor (Canadian Rep.Mirvish Productions), Master Harold and the Boys (1000 Islands Playhouse), The Monument (Obsidian), Heaven, The Tempest, Habitat (Canadian Stage), A Killing Snow, Salt Water Moon, Leaving Home, Harvest, Spirit of the Narrows, Drawer Boy, Another Season’s Harvest (Blyth Festival), Brothel #9, And So It Goes, Suburban Motel, Better Living, Escape From Happiness, Beyond Mozambique, Home Is My Road (Factory Theatre). Set designs include: Colony of Unrequited Dreams, After Image, Oil & Water (Artistic Fraud); Colours in the Storm, Pride and Prejudice (Grand Theatre). Costume designs include: If Truth Be Told (Blyth Festival), Alls Well That Ends Well (Canadian Stage Dream in High Park), Communion, How It Works (Tarragon Theatre), Moonlight and Magnolias, Miracle on 34th St. (Grand Theatre). Set & Costume Design/Co-Creator: float (Choral Canada), Between Breaths (Artistic Fraud). Shawn is an Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre, York University, where she served as Chair from 2003–2009.
Tim Lindsay (Sound Designer) Tim is a Toronto-born sound designer & full-time technical director at The Theatre Centre, where he designed their touring production of the award-winning play This Is the Point. Most recently, he designed the world premieres of Clitoria: A Sex-Positive Superhero! and Emotional Labour at Toronto Fringe 2019, and C’mon, Angie! and The Chance for Leroy Street Theatre. His other favourite designs include: six plays for Kat Sandler/Theatre Brouhaha, most recently Bright Lights at Toronto Fringe 2016; four shows for Cue6 Theatre including award winner pool (no water); back-to-back international Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl Fringe runs and tours for Rebecca Perry Productions; Titus Andronicus for Hart House Theatre; Othello for Driftwood Theatre; Red Light Winter for Unit 102; and After Miss Julie for Red One Theatre Company. He also co-produced and designed BFL Theatre’s acclaimed productions of Hedwig & The Angry Inch, and Hard Core Logo: Live in its 2017 Toronto debut.
Melissa Joakim (Stage Manager & Touring Lighting Designer) is a lighting and projection designer and stage manager in Toronto, Canada. She holds a BFA Spec. Hon.s from York University. She has been nominated for Dora Awards in Lighting Design and Scenic Design and for the Pauline McGibbon Award. Recent credits include: Environmental Design: Prophecy Fog (Theatre Centre and Paper Canoe Projects) Space Cats Invade the Earth (Nuit Blanche North). Lighting and Projection Design: This is the Point (Ahuri Theatre with Theatre Centre); A Side of Dreams (Paper Canoe Projects). Lighting Design: 2 Odysseys (Soundstreams and Signal Theatre); Isitwendam (Native Earth Performing Arts and Theatre Northwest); Balaklava Blues (Self Conscious Productions at Luminato and Latitude Festivals). Projection Design: Dissidents (ARC Stage Company), Flashing Lights (Bad New Days and Ahuri Theatre); Alien Creature (Theatre Passe Muraille). She is grateful to be part of this poignant and deeply relevant show.
Sascha Cole (Associate Producer) is a Toronto-based theatre artist, and approaches producing from a creative practice, seeking out bold collaborators and adventurous projects. Most recent producing credits include: Sea Sick (Theatre Centre at Edinburgh Fringe Festival), Obeah Opera (Luminato Festival), and Other Jesus (Festival TransAmèrique). Sascha spent two years producing various projects for Soulpepper Theatre Company including Soulpepper on 42nd Street at the Signature Theatre Off Broadway. Other producing credits include two years with The Koffler Centre for the Arts and various experimental projects at the SummerWorks Performance Festival. As an Associate Artist with It Could Still Happen, Sascha has produced large-scale site specific experimental work including, The Supine Cobbler and Hroses: Outrage à la raison. She also serves on the board of Obsidian Theatre Company. Sascha is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada’s acting program and the Cultural Leadership Program at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.
Sundays with the St. Lawrence
with the Telegraph String Quartet
Sun, April 10 at 2:30 PM | Bing Concert Hall
Wed, Apr 27 at 7:00 PM | Bing Studio