An arts-science collaboration performance piece created by Daniel Bird Tobin, faculty fellow with the Center for Communicating Science (CCS), was presented August 1 at the 2020 conference of the Association of Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE).
Tobin and CCS faculty fellow Al Evangelista were part of a conference session titled “Animating and Embodying Collaboration.”
Working with Peter Sforza, Director of the Center for Geospatial Information Technology at Virginia Tech, Tobin first developed “Flooding the Beach” for Virginia Tech’s Advancing the Human Condition symposium in November 2018. The performance invites audience members to imagine themselves wading into the ocean on a sandy beach—and then standing waist deep in flood waters in the middle of the Virginia Tech drill field. Sforza’s studies of flood data have found that in a 100-year flood scenario the Virginia Tech drill field, bookstore, and Graduate Life Center would all be waist deep in water, and such floods are becoming more frequent than once in 100 years, with extreme weather, sea level rise, and other climate change factors to blame. Evangelista also created and performed a piece in collaboration with another researcher at the 2018 symposium.
The ATHE “Animating and Embodying Collaboration” session explored two collaborative performances. Tobin performed “Flooding the Beach,” and he and Evangelista discussed their various collaborations with Virginia Tech researchers to communicate and embody research. Caitlin Kane discussed Cornell University’s workshop production of the Loneliness Project, which theatricalized ethnographic research about intergenerational loneliness in Chicago’s LGBTQIA+ populations. The session gave presenters and attendees an opportunity to discuss how the projects provided new creative possibilities and unexpected collaborative challenges.
“By interrogating what values we center in devised work, those that we devise with, and why we center those values, we can reframe and push our work to be more inclusive, responsive, and critical,” said Evangelista. “But this work is not easy. It demands a knowledge of, time for, and space of values making and meaning.”
The ATHE Conference, held online this year in July and August, brings together college and university theatre departments and administrators, educators, graduate students, and theatre practitioners. The organization serves as “an intellectual and artistic center for producing new knowledge about theatre and performance-related disciplines, cultivating vital alliances with other scholarly and creative disciplines, linking with professional and community-based theatres, and promoting access and equity.”