Saturday, September 23, 2023

Choose Your Climate Story: Extrapolations or ReGeneration

Just finished watching Extrapolations and I can't help but share a few thoughts about it.  

Most of you know me from my environmental advocacy with Sustainable Tucson or from following my blog about sustainable living. But in another life I wrote reviews of meaningful films for Reel Inspiration. Before that I was actually a theater major! Funny how our journeys don't always go the way we imagined. I went on to get my MFA in playwriting which led to writing screenplays, which led to becoming active in Tucson's indie-film community, which led to me writing film reviews - where I watched a few documentaries on climate change. I couldn't help but notice the impact of climate change on our desert town. Every year was getting hotter than the last. Our normally raging monsoon season diminished to a mere whimper. That inspired me to learn everything I could about climate change: the causes, impact, and ways to mitigate it. We adjusted our everyday lifestyle to have less of a negative impact and more of a positive (regenerative) impact.  

Experience has shown me that no education is ever wasted. Even my theater background could be used to educate people about climate change. Much of the research I conducted was incorporated into ReGeneration: The Tucson Story, a play about the impacts of climate change on Tucson in the near future. It was a vehicle to share solutions I had learned about. Unfortunately, by the time the play was stage ready, all the theaters and schools were shut down due to COVID. So I ended up directing a virtual play reading in 2021 (that you can still find on YouTube.) 

Meanwhile, another climate story was in the works.

Extrapolations, a limited series by writer, director, and executive producer Scott Z. Burns, "introduces a near future where the chaotic effects of climate change have become embedded into our everyday lives." The marketing team couldn't have come up with a better logline for my play! Naturally, I had to check it out. It's been a while since I've written a movie review for Reel Inspiration. But I couldn't help forming a few thoughts on the series. Occupational hazard. Once a reviewer, always a reviewer. And, it was only natural that I would compare the series to my own script. 

First, I'm not sure it's correct to say that Extrapolations is set in the "near future." (I guess it depends on how you define "near future.") The time line goes from 2037 to 2070. 

But my play ReGeneration actually is set in the near future. Here in Tucson we are already seeing many of the impacts of climate change dramatized in my story. While we haven't had to suffer through the grid going down (yet), we recently had a scare when the power went out for a few days in some parts of town. We have seen the impact of extreme heat on the most vulnerable. Everything that happens in the story is based on things that are already happening here. 

To get a better understanding of the series, I looked up extrapolation - the name of the title.

noun: the action of estimating or concluding something by assuming that existing trends will continue or a current method will remain applicable.

Given this definition, it seems that Burns created each episode based on an extrapolation of a current trend in climate and technology taken to a potential extreme. There was some continuity where some characters reappear in later episodes, but for the most part, each episode was a standalone exploration of a potential future outcome of climate change and new technologies; like mass extinctions of animal species, the effects of extreme heat, or possible unintended consequences of attempting to solve global warming with geoengineering. 

While it is evident that the writers did extensive research on the causes of climate change and impacts, Extrapolations plays more like science fiction or dystopic sci-fi. It explores the dichotomy of the "chaotic effects of climate change on the everyday lives" of the underserved masses in contrast with the luxurious comforts the privileged few corporate CEOs are afforded due to future scientific advances. The general public endures rationed geo-engineered food, while billionaires enjoy gala events catered with the real food. Workers pay for shots of clean oxygen to endure the polluted air, while the rich are safely transported in flying machines to their domed, climate-controlled mansions. The idea of relying on for-profit corporations for the technological advances needed for our survival is a frightening theme of the series.  

I guess the biggest difference between my play and Extrapolations is that in my play there is still hope as the teen protagonists fight for a livable future in our desert town. In most of the episodes of Extrapolations, the protagonists goals revolve around survival in a world that is rigged for profiting big corporations. Sort of a bummer, but an insightful theme. 

If you are looking for hope in this time of climate change, you might want to watch the recording of my play. I find the most hope in taking action. My goal in writing the play was to present realistic solutions and impactful actions we can all do to lessen the impact of climate change - hopefully in an entertaining way.  Maybe you can find some ways to share your own talents and skills to create a more resilient future, too. 

Here's a few ideas...   

What Kind of Climate Champion Are You?

For the Love of Tucson: Creating a Desert Oasis to Combat Climate Change

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Music for Generations

Yeah. Yeah. I know this play won't appeal to everyone. There's some pretty strong language in it. But I wrote this play for the people who would be the most affected by the negative impact of climate change. I wanted the teens' dialogue to reflect the way they talk. I had a friend from South Tucson go over the dialogue for the Latino brothers to make it more authentic. Some of the actors did a little improvising, too.  

I was looking for an artist who would bring a teen audience to the virtual premiere of ReGeneration: The Tucson Story. A friend recommended that I reach out to recording artist  R3D. To be honest, I wasn't sure if he even wrote the kind of lyrics I needed. There were no songs about the environment or climate action on his page. The closest thing I found was a music video about the police inspired by what had happened over the summer, Land of the Privileged. 

R3D messaged me saying that he thought it would be awesome to do, but he didn't have any songs that fit the topic of my play. But he would like to meet sometime in the future to talk about another project.  I made a final pitch, telling him that he had nine days until the premiere if he wanted to write something for it. I shared the two main themes with him: diverse communities coming together and sustainability solutions like rainwater harvesting or regenerative gardening. Told him he was welcome to rap about the desert or love of Tucson or water or the Santa Cruz... I was thrilled when he said he could come up with something! 

I asked him why he was interested in this project and he responded, "I’m all about cleaning the earth. Saving the planet, we live in it and we must keep where we live clean. I also want my kids, kids, kids to have a better future but it starts with us. Therefore our kids will learn and continue to keep earth clean so their kids future will be brighter than ours." 

Team Regeneration is thrilled to have R3D join us because he is such an excellent example to the teens in his community. 

"I started rapping because I wanted to be heard and feel better with everything. No one listened when I spoke but when music got involved everybody listened. I come from a neighborhood in south Tucson where you’re either a gang member or sheltered at home for protection. I didn’t want either, so I became an artist. Then I started to get respected from the people in my neighborhood. Writing music kept me away from what most of my peers were doing, it kept me busy so I had no time to be out getting in trouble. It freed me from many problems growing up, it became therapy so when I had problems I didn’t speak to a person, I spoke to a mic. Eventually people heard, and I wasn’t the only one in my neighborhood who wanted something different."

Can't wait to see what R3D comes up with for the premiere. Honestly, I believe his message will appeal to all generations. Because we need climate solutions for generations to come. 

Watch R3D on the virtual premiere of ReGeneration: The Tucson Story now streaming on Youtube.

You can also see him on our Q & A:

Learn more on our website: 

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Celebrating Our Diverse Cultures

One of the first things that made me fall in love with Tucson was the traces of cultures from the people who came before us. You don’t have to look far to see the influence of those who built the Old Pueblo - in our famed Mexican food, music and art. But dig a little deeper. Mission Garden boasts a living museum about the history of agriculture on this Tohono O’odham land: from the T.O. garden plot to the drought tolerant heritage fruit trees from the time of Father Kino. Some of our modern rainwater harvesting techniques evolved from Tohono O’odham ak-chin agriculture. And low-water gardening techniques have been used by Abuelas and Abuelos for generations. I was inspired by both of those cultures. It was important to me to be respectful while highlighting their contributions.

As climate change progresses, I feel it is vital for all our communities to work together on sustainable solutions. That theme is woven into the play. I wanted to make sure that those voices were as authentic as possible. In addition to doing research on the different cultures, I had members of those communities give me feedback on how their people were represented. I listened to their concerns and suggestions then implemented them into the script.

Andrew Trever, who plays Alex, wrote in his bio, “I joined the ReGeneration project because as a young Latinx person it spoke volumes to me to be able to work with such a diverse cast and to be able to talk about a subject that affects me and the very town I call home.” 

I tried my best to cast actors of the correct ethnicity for the main characters. That presented a real challenge. After an exhaustive search for the Latino brothers, I eventually had to cast older actors for those roles. Eduardo Rodriguez, who plays fourteen-year-old Rogelio, is actually a Pima Community College graduate. Eduardo impresses me every day by how well he has portrayed the much younger character. I was so blessed to find Tierra Domingo, a young Tohono O’odham woman to play Ha:san. I relied on Tierra to make sure her character and her tribe’s customs were authentic. She even recruited her little sisters for the storytelling scene – all donned in their traditional Tohono O’odham dresses! Tierra recently shared her experience in her tribe’s newspaper, The Runner.

I hope ReGeneration: The Tucson Story inspires our Tucson community to work together to make sure Tucson thrives into the future…and maybe plant some low-water regenerative gardens and native trees nourished by the rain.

You can watch the virtual premiere of ReGeneration: The Tucson Story and a short film Tierra made with her sisters on Youtube.

You can also watch her on our Q & A:

Learn more on our website: 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

How This Virtual Production Came to Be

It all started on a sunny fall day. The morning my husband Dan peddled off to enjoy Watershed Management Group’s Homescape Harvest Tour, in his hand a map of some yards that the co-op had worked on through the years. When Dan got home, all sweaty and excited, he rushed me out the door to see some inspiring examples of rainwater harvesting.  I was especially blown away with WMG’s living lab where everything on the property, including some fruit trees, were irrigated with storm-water. They weren’t using any city water! What a great way to conserve water! Docents explained how there was enough storm-water to fill every Tucsonan’s needs if we all “planted the rain.” Finally a practical solution to making Tucson water secure! 

That tour changed our lives! Dan and I learned everything we could about rainwater harvesting. Dan became a member of their co-op, spending every free weekend digging catchment basins in people's yards and installing water barrels to collect runoff from rooftops to irrigate native plants. We spent the last seven years sharing what we learned. I blogged about our adventures (and misadventures) in transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle.

But at some point we realized that we were just preaching to the choir. We needed to reach beyond in our little bubble of influence on facebook. I wrote the play, ReGeneration: The Tucson Story to reach out to more Tucsonans. It is about a diverse group of teens who bring their communities together to make Tucson habitable as the climate disaster progresses. 

While writing this play, I was able to use the knowledge about sustainability that I had gathered over the years. The REAL challenge was writing about the other cultures that weren't mine. I did a lot of research on the Tohono O’odham and LatinX lifestyles. I wanted to make sure I was respectful of those traditions. A member of the O’odham generously took the time to read it and give me feedback. He said he enjoyed it. He only had a problem with one section. He said, "They would never do that." So I promptly removed it. I was still a little uneasy about the street kids’ dialogue. I wanted to make sure it was authentic. A high school English teacher agreed to have her students read it – when they got back from Spring Break. Then COVID struck.

I continued to rewrite the script and get feedback. I was painfully aware that while the pandemic may have stalled my production, it certainly had not slowed down climate change. I decided that it was time to contact local high schools and theaters about producing the play. But they had problems of their own. They were struggling to adapt to the challenges of social distancing. Teachers were learning to conduct virtual classes. The theaters were working on ways to stay relevant. There was no time to read a play from an unknown playwright. However, in the problem was the solution. Theater teachers and theater companies started producing virtual (Zoom) plays. That was it! Inspired by their productions, I decided to produce a virtual reading of my play. 

It was time for a leap of faith. I started my search for my diverse cast. I began by asking that high school English teacher to recommend students. A friend introduced me to a drama teacher. She announced it to her class. I finally got two responses. One of them was a bright young actress. Itzel, who I later cast. She convinced a couple of her friends, Ariel and Andrew, she knew from drama club to audition. They were great! I cast them all. That gave me the confidence to broaden my casting call.

I knew I would need two Latino teens to play the brothers. I had no idea that they would be so hard to find! I asked everyone I knew in the theater and film community for recommendations. Used all my contacts. Nothing but dead ends! Then I spotted a PSA with a young man who looked right for the part of Rogelio. I tracked Eduardo down on facebook and asked him if he would be interested in being in my play. I waited with anticipation as he read the script. He got back to me after a few days. Said he was fascinated with the sustainability aspects of the play. But it was the characters’ relationships that kept him turning the pages! He was definitely interested in the part. Only... one thing... he was a Pima College graduate. I convinced him that I was confident that he could play a teen.

As difficult as it was finding a young Latino actor, I knew I had a bigger challenge ahead - finding a Tohono O’odham actress to play Ha:san. Then it happened... a little miracle...I discovered a lovely short video by a young Tohono O’odham woman. We connected on facebook. I asked her if she would be interested in being in my play. I was thrilled when she answered, “Yes!” I considered that a sign! With two of the most difficult roles cast, I trudged forward to cast all 16 roles! A big thanks to our theater and film community who sent out casting notices. While most of the actors reside in Tucson, Zoom has allowed me to cast people from other places as well - like New Jersey, Texas, California and Phoenix.

I am blessed with a talented and hardworking cast – particularly the teens who not only excel at acting, but who are also instrumental in getting this production off the ground. They are my assistant director, stage manager, promoters, technical support and artists! 

We hold all of the rehearsals and production meetings online. There are certainly challenges with using a virtual medium and a steep learning curve for me. But it is fun to work with this creative group of young people to find solutions. The teens are masters of coming up with blocking and using props in the limited space. Even separated in their individual Zoom frames you can see the comradery. It’s a blast to watch them! They are also my advisers. When I was struggling with finding the balance between using authentic street dialogue and being culturally respectful, they shared valuable insights. They are teaching me how to be a better director and communicator. And they are learning too. Throughout the rehearsal process, the teens are discovering sustainability practices like rainwater harvesting and regenerative gardening. Some will act as ambassadors to share that knowledge!

The cool thing is that this play is about a diverse group of young people who bring their communities together to save Tucson – presented by a diverse group of young people inspired to share solutions to create a sustainable future for Tucson! I couldn't be prouder!

The fun-filled virtual premiere is now streaming on Youtube live along with the Q & A with young cast members.