A one-of-a-kind experience that explores the intersection of theater, climate justice and augmented reality, “Ocean Filibuster” will premiere February 24 at American Repertory Theater in Cambridge. Created by the artistic team Katie Pearl and Lisa D’Amour, known as PerleDamourthe play takes the audience to a not-too-distant future where a politician proposes a bill to end the existence of the ocean.
Originally slated to debut in September 2020, the show’s journey to production has been hampered by COVID-19. While the virtual rehearsals and limited audience interactions weren’t ideal, they thankfully served to underscore the show’s important themes.
“COVID has brought more attention to the environment,” D’Amour said. “It really heightened our awareness of how interconnected we are.”
performing artist Jennifer Kidwell plays both the Leader of the Senate, Mr. Majority and The Ocean; its simultaneous depiction of the two figures highlights the connection between very different life forms.
“Using the device of personification, we can begin to understand that there is no division between humans and the ocean,” Kidwell said.
This is the motto of this dynamic production, which aims to raise awareness of the climate crisis through concrete audience engagement.
“There’s something about just reading about an issue that puts you at some distance from it,” Pearl said. “In theatre, we include the audience as a sort of narrative member and throw them into the world.”
The audience of “Ocean Filibuster” will not remain isolated from the issues it addresses. The show uses music, video and interactive mini-labs, which are 3D augmented reality, or AR, experiences that audiences can access during intermission, to immerse audiences in what it’s all about. than traveling to the bottom of the ocean.
Pearl explained that a major goal of the technological aspects of the production is to foster a sense of connection with otherwise alien parts of Earth’s ecosystem.
“AR is specifically designed to give our audience access to things they would otherwise never see,” Pearl said.
By exposing viewers to the wonders of the ocean floor, “Ocean Filibuster” sets the stage for measurable impact long after the curtain closes.
D’Amour said his ultimate ambition for this production is to create an educational tool to raise environmental awareness and inspire real action.
“My goal is for this piece to keep rolling and for everyone who sees it to decide to engage in ocean and air initiatives in their community once a week,” D’Amour said. “It’s so hard to get people to do things once a week.”
The tour, funded by a Kickstarter Campaign, will create a localized experience for the communities visited. These funds ensure that the dynamic set of the show can adapt to different locations and will support partnerships with different climate organizations in each city.
For its American Repertory Theater broadcast, “Ocean Filibuster” is collaborating with the Conservation Law Foundation, Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs and Mass Audubon to provide resources that will further enrich the public’s understanding of local marine ecologies.
This unique crowdsourcing initiative will make “Ocean Filibuster” accessible to a wider and younger audience, D’Amour said, and further spread its call for environmental action. Kidwell shares the same hopes that it will increase accountability and inspire people.
“We hope to change the perspective on personal behavior and remind ourselves how all of our choices have an impact,” Kidwell said.
“Ocean Filibuster” is a unique and integrated theatrical performance that aims to bridge the gap between humanity and the natural world. It will run at the American Repertory Theater until March 13 before starting his national tour.
“Caring for the ocean and the air is caring for ourselves,” D’Amour said.