Amara Zee arrives in Vancouver for shipboard theatrical climate change show, Nomadic Tempest

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      Fans of tall ships, Cirque du Soleil-type acrobatics, and operatic artists who promote awareness about climate change will want to head to the docks near the Vancouver Maritime Museum today to see the 90-foot Amara Zee.

      It passed by Kitsilano Beach early Friday (August 4) evening in advance of a theatre show unlike anything we're likely to see in Vancouver.

      The photo above was taken moments before the Amara Zee docked off Kits Point at the northern end of Chestnut Street.

      Caravan Stage Company will present Nomadic Tempest, which it's billing as a "Climatopian Spectacle", onboard the vessel from August 15 to September 3.

      At that time, the tall ship will be docked at Southeast False Creek just east of the Cambie Bridge, with audiences watching performances from the shore.

      The story centres on monarch butterflies, played by four acrobatic artists on the ship's masts, accompanied by an original musical score.

      They're searching for a refuge in a world upended by climate change.

      In some respects, the show represents the plight of many African refugees fleeing searing temperatures and droughts by boarding boats for a dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean.

      Caravan Stage Company was founded as a nonprofit experimental theatre and opera company in Victoria in 1970, so it has deep B.C. roots. It has since travelled to many countries with its unique and socially conscious works.

      Nomadic Tempest is a United Nations 2017 Year of Sustainable Tourism official event. 

      Theatre occupies new spaces

      This theatrical performance onboard a tall ship is the latest manifestation of the evolution of modern theatre in Canada.

      A growing number of productions are telling stories in unconventional venues.

      For example, Japanese Problem will highlight the injustice of the internment of Japanese Canadians with performances this autumn in the Livestock Building's animal stalls at Hastings Park.

      In 1942 this is were Japanese Canadians were housed after their possessions were seized. Most were later transferred to internment camps in the B.C. Interior, though some opted to work as indentured labourers on sugar beet farms.

      This trend of presenting the performing arts in the community was highlighted in a recent essay, "Theatre, What's Next", in Reflections of Canada: Illuminating Our Opportunities and Challenges at 150+ Years, which was published by the UBC Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies.

      Essay coauthors George Belliveau, Tetsuro Shigematsu (writer-performer of Empire of the Son), and Jerry Wasserman point out that there's been "proliferation of site-specific theatre, where audiences are brought to non-traditional spaces to witness live plays".

      "For instance, in Electric Company's The Wake, the audience travelled to eleven outdoor sites on Vancouver's historic Granville Island," they write "In the unusual use of spaces for theatre (i.e. tennis court, ferry factory), the audience discovered the island's history, which went from fishing village to an industrial, factory hub during the Second World War."

      Belliveau, Shigematsu, and Wasserman suggest that the format of traditional plays may diminish in popularity "as audiences develop an appetite for unique experiences that blur the illusionary divide between audience and performer".

      So while it might seem a bit bizarre to watch a ship-based theatre performance from the shore, it's actually in keeping with the times.

      And what could be more timely than a show about climate change just as British Columbia is in the midst of a horrific wildfire season?