‘The End’ bus tour depicts an apocalyptic Denver to help spur action on climate change
Boil water orders remained in effect, curfews were strictly enforced and people without water service at home were encouraged to contact local authorities.
Extreme heat and power outages affected much of east-central Colorado, as harmful levels of airborne particles filled the air in Denver and its neighboring counties.
“Children, youth and people with compromised immune systems in these areas are encouraged to stay indoors in air-conditioned spaces from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. to avoid peak pollution exposures,” a voice said. monotonous on an emergency broadcast system.
The grim message was delivered Wednesday night during the first live performance of “The End: A Bus Tour of Denver’s Climate Future.”
The immersive theatrical experience – Thursdays and weekends through July 31 – takes audiences to a Denver transformed by the escalating climate crisis, on the brink of collapse.
Patron passengers explore Denver’s present and future in a custom school bus with a stripped-down interior, spray-painted inside and out. The actors ride alongside spectators and deliver their lines up close as the bus moves from one vacant location in Denver to another. The show, peppered with song and dance, also highlights moments that underscore the strangeness, derangement, and negativity that would reign in an apocalyptic era.
Lakewood-based Control Group Productions created the expeditionary performance to help sound the alarm about the impending climate crisis. The company comes at a time when people seem unwilling to make changes to help reverse or slow the effects of rising temperatures, a global pandemic and other ‘apocalyptic’ events, including fires of forest, the organization said. The Marshall Fire, which burned more than 1,000 homes on Dec. 30 in Louisville and Superior, is perhaps the most shocking recent example of climate change already affecting local populations.
Rather than simply showing audiences what the apocalypse might look like, the theater company’s bus tour aims to help attendees understand what it feels like to walk through it.
“The End” spotlights an open-air brownfield site, a public park recently renovated to promote ecological regeneration and a former slaughterhouse in Globeville Elyria-Swansea, one of the most polluted urban spaces in the country. It ends in Commerce City, in “a natural outdoor area that is experiencing the downstream effects of this environmental devastation,” said Patrick Mueller, founder of Control Group Productions and director of the show.
“We chose this neighborhood because, frankly, unfortunately, we think it represents what a growing part of the metro area will look like in 20 or 30 years if we continue down this path,” said Mueller, who also plays “The Mudprophet”. said at the end of the tour on Wednesday night.
Careful not to spill the show’s secrets, Caroline Sharkey, who plays a lead role, said the performance was about how people deal with the local effects of extreme climate change while examining how they deal with pessimism and the hope that stems from the crisis.
“It’s about getting right in front of someone and saying, ‘This is what’s happening’… It’s a way of making things more important,” she said. “I think when people go to the theater they expect to be entertained – and that’s true – but it’s much more of a journey, where you’re part of the whole story arc.”
Mueller said he was compelled to create the theatrical performance because with climate change in particular, there’s a lot of data illustrating the problem, but those numbers don’t change behaviors on a large enough scale.
Immersive experiences can help change an audience’s relationship with the subject by inviting them to think about how they would react in the same circumstances. “The longer we can keep people from interpreting and have them experience the experience itself, the further their interpretations stray from what they already know,” Mueller said.
Allowing members of the public to see the actors’ version of what could happen at the local level because of climate change, and encouraging them to think about how they play a role in reducing the effects of climate change, is what who drives and drives the show, Sharkey said. , who plays “Heather Grayling”, the villain of the series.
Mueller and Sharkey are the first two actors to appear in the performance. Mueller plays “The Mudprophet”, an unhinged man with a bizarre costume, who is often seen throughout the series inaudibly shouting about climate change facts and data. Sharkey plays the series’ villain, whose character represents the people who will face climate change and the apocalypse by simply “giving up” and choosing absurdity and nihilism, she said.
Lack of food and water are recurring themes throughout the play. Mueller said he was working hard to show the public that most people would not be self-sufficient in food production if the climate crisis got much worse. As supply chains collapse, everyone will be affected, he said.
The dismantling of hope is another theme woven into the bus tour spectacle. But the importance of a strong, unified community in times of struggle is another thread he hopes audience members will take away from the performance.
“I hope the takeaway debunks simple positions, whether it’s nihilism or pessimism, or just plain ignorance, so that we start thinking about it,” Mueller said. “I feel like a lot of people I interact with have found a position that seems tenable for a while: ‘It won’t affect me because, this, or I’m isolated because of this, or I I’m prepared because of this. I don’t think any of this holds water.
At the end of the tour, on the way back to where it started, Mueller aims to sum up the experience by encouraging audience members to break into groups and talk about what steps they could start taking immediately to do a difference.
Tackling the climate crisis will likely require national legislation to flatten the carbon footprint, he said. But that shouldn’t stop people from finding other ways to help reduce the effects of climate change, he said.
“Those of us who have read the scientific reports that have been published over the last few decades truly recognize that the consequences of adding large amounts of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere – the consequences are going to be profoundly severe on land and in the oceans,” said Leslie Glustrom, senior adviser at Clean Energy Action, a Boulder-based nonprofit that works to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to an economy. of clean energy.” And it will have profound consequences for humans and all the other species we share the planet with.”
Some researchers have shown that eating less red meat is much more effective at reducing carbon emissions than reducing time spent driving non-electric vehicles. Likewise, taking a shorter daily shower helps, but not as much as removing your lawn, Mueller said.
Colorado could implement a new law that would reimburse people up to $2 per square foot to remove their lawns to help address some of the state’s water shortages during a long-term drought. Nearly a quarter of Denver’s water goes to water lawns, according to Denverite.
Likewise, buying a car and keeping it for more than a decade is better for the environment than keeping it for, say, three years, Mueller added.
“I recognize that a lot of these things are white privilege at work, and the fact is that I’m a middle-aged owner, with some capital capacity,” he said. “The show is for middle-class white people who need to buy differently, because they can.”
There is room for 28 spectators on each bus and tickets are $70, although the theater company offers discounted tickets for those who cannot afford full price. The three-hour, 16-mile show will begin at different locations, usually bars, over the next eight weeks to ensure it is accessible to people across the city.