Cry Havoc Theater Company explores climate change in new audio play, "Endlings"
By Cristee Cook
Cry Havoc Theater Company, the Dallas teen theatre company will present their fourth verbatim play, Endlings, on October 19. An audio play utilizing 3-dimensional sound, Endlings tackles the topic of climate change. Through numerous interviews with politicians, scientists, indigenous environmentalists, and reporters and writers who specialize in climate change, the company investigated the issue from all ends of the spectrum. The audio play is presented alongside several original short films that were inspired by the process, choreographed by Bombshell Dance Project’s Emily Bernet.
Cry Havoc Founder/Artistic Director and Endlings Director, Mara Richards Bim, sat down with me to discuss their new play, what inspired her to work with teenagers, and how the company has evolved from performing works created for young performers to devising verbatim plays about urgent contemporary topics.
Bim began working with teenagers while living in New York City, where she worked for a variety of nonprofit theatre companies. She said her interest in working with teenagers began there, and she was inspired by the age group because, “They are fearless...and they're willing to try anything.”
Since its inception, Cry Havoc's work has evolved from performing into devising. In 2012, Bim accepted the position of Education Manager at Dallas Theatre Center. Primarily working with teenagers through DTC’s Project Discovery, she realized Dallas needed a theatre company for young people that was free (a model she’d only seen in New York, with the exception of Dallas’ Junior Players), and that produced content pertinent and engaging to teenagers. Cry Havoc was born from these two ideas, and even though their work has changed over the years, those original tenants remain their driving force.
In fact, the impetus to produce verbatim plays (sometimes called documentary or investigative theatre), came from the teens themselves. Bim shared the story of an evening with the company in 2016: "We were doing Naomi Iizuka’s play Good Kids, and I came to see the final dress rehearsal. And that was the night of the Dallas police shootings. When I asked them how they were doing...they all fell apart. It was the first time they’d had an opportunity to talk about everything that was happening. Because the Dallas police shootings, if you recall, didn't happen in a vacuum. It was Philando Castile and Alton Sterling — it was an entire summer of talking about police shooting black men. So, I think their reaction to it had been building and that was sort of the explosion point. And in that conversation, I felt like we should figure out a way to work through it theatrically.”
Audiences might remember the show that came out of that conversation – Shots Fired, which the teens performed to a standing-room-only audience in 2017. Since then, they've gone on to produce investigative theatre on topics such as gun violence (Babel, 2018), and immigration (Crossing The Line, 2019). Endlings is Cry Havoc’s fourth verbatim play. About the company, Bim said: “We're not a political theater company, but a lot of what we do touches on politics and hot button topics. And I think hearing [these topics] through the lens of a young person's perspective has a totally different resonance than if it was adult actors doing it.”
Endlings was originally slated as a live stage production, so the company reinvented the project for an at-home audience. But they worked through the pandemic, continuing to conduct interviews via Zoom. Even though the format of the work changed, the teens of Cry Havoc still felt the impact of what they learned from their interviewees, and during a pandemic, the topic of climate change and the environment took on a sharper relevance. Navigating the mounting external pressures of changes in school, personal home life, and political upheaval, the teens of Cry Havoc pushed forward with bravery and curiosity. If past performances from the company are any indication, Endlings promises to offer a thought-provoking, vulnerable insight into our relationship with nature and our experience of collective grief.
Bim shared that she hopes audiences will, “...begin to think about our place on the planet. That these are our relatives. We are in some way connected to the tree outside. I am hoping that people walk away from the show, thinking about our place in all of this and how to have a more holistic relationship with nature, whatever that looks like.”
Cry Havoc Theater Company will release Endlings, Written by Mara Richards Bim and the Teens of Cry Havoc as an audio play, available for streaming October 19 – November 1, 2020. The audio play is being released alongside several original short films inspired by the play on an interactive website designed to engage audiences in the ongoing conversations generated by the play. Visit endlingstheplay.com for tickets, to learn about interviewees, experience the original short films, and immerse yourself in the world of Endlings.