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Green Sleep Promises Hope, Laughs and not Lectures in this Post-apocalyptic Fairytale

By Ezekiel McAdams

April 22 2024

DST Greensleep Poster Image.JPG

  Dancing Sky Theatre’s latest production Greensleep, is a self-described post-apocalyptic fairytale that promises hope and love in a cautionary tale.

  Greensleep runs from April 26th to May 12 2024 at Dancing Sky Theatre in Meacham.


  It's written by playwright, Kelley Jo Burke, a frequent collaborator of the company and directed by Angus Ferguson, founder of Dancing Sky Theatre and artistic director of the company.

  The plot begins in a post-apocalyptic world, where plants have become the dominant species on the planet, only a few human beings remain after a mass population correction. The population correction is coming from the natural world and the different ways we approach rebirth.


  When asked how she writes a post-apocalyptic comedy, Burke chuckled and said “How do you not? I can’t get through terrible things without laughing” She coined a portmanteau for her work “traumedy”. “Angus said I have the blackest comedy outside Northern England.” Burke recalled.


  While the play alludes to more survivors, it primarily focuses on four of them, Huck (Kyle Kirchirka), Anna (Peace Akintade), Mei (Crispi Lord) and Jem (Savana Gallant).

(back l-r) William Hales, Angus Ferguson (middle) Savana Gallant, Peace Akintade, Crispi L
(l-r) Savana Gallant, Peace Akintade, Crispi Lord, Edith Rattary & (front) Kyle Kuchirka 2

  Ferguson also likens it to decentralizing the human experience. “The planet is not about us. We’re interested in how it effects us. It’s the end of the world you know but the planet will be fine.”

  The genesis of what would become Greensleep, was conceived last year when Burke was working on Dancing Sky’s The Curst. “Angus has been my friend for twenty five years at least, I had a play last year called The Curst and did a collaboration with my favourite Saskatchewan band, Library Voices and Angus creeps over to me, ‘How would like a commission’?” Burke said.


  Ferguson, gave Burke a copy of The Flowering Wand by Sophie Strand. “I looked at the cover and oh God, it looked so earnest, I don’t do earnest, I write comedy. I don’t think I’m the right person for this. I never write where I lecture, I hate that. Angus said, 'But you do fairy tales, that’s your wheelhouse.' Most of my works are rooted in fairytale or myth.”

The Flowerring Wand Cover.jpg

  The material was just as passionate for Ferguson who thought it was perfect for Burke. “One is about climate change, whatever the current word is, its really tricky. It’s amazing how little it's delved into in art, because it’s really the only issue really. Not that the others aren’t important; gender equality, racism, they’re all important but if we’re all going to die from climate change, it’s secondary. So it's remarkable to me how much we avoid it. We avoid it because it’s too depressing and we can’t look it in the eye. It was interesting to find ways of talking about it that we haven’t explored yet.”   


  Burke drew inspiration from Strand who unpacked the fairytale and origin of Sleeping Beauty, which also analyzed deep ancient mythology such as Persephone and Samarian legends. “It’s all about rebirth. Sleeping Beauty is about the world waking up again. I started looking at if humans disappeared from the world. The world doesn’t die, it keeps going and I wanted to know how long that would work? How long it would take? What would it look like? I started writing a play, that the environmental world calls a population correction and what happens after that.”


  Population correction is both a term and theory touted by Professor William. E Rees, a human ecologist and economic ecologist at the University of British Columbia (UBC)


  The following quote comes from Rees' published paper, The Human Ecology of Overshoot: Why a Major ‘Population Correction’ Is Inevitable “Which brings us back to the population conundrum. In the simplest terms, overshoot results from too many people consuming and polluting too much. The immediate physical cause is excess economic throughput (i.e., resource consumption and waste production), but throughput is itself driven by both rising incomes and population growth. Most people tend to spend/consume to the limit imposed by their discretionary incomes (and, since the introduction of easy credit, often well beyond). High-income countries and populations are therefore responsible for three quarters of excess material consumption and pollution to date.”


  Angus asked if Burke could write a play in which the natural world wasn’t a setting but an actual character. Burke ran with that the idea and incorporated music into the production. “What if everything in the world sings? The grass sings, the trees sing, mushrooms sing and whales sing. If you want the natural world to be present, use music and possibly puppets.” Burke exclaimed.


  Burke completed a first draft last August and began work shopping it soon after. “It wasn’t good but it was a start and did the workshop and got it into a much better place.” Burke said.


  The original workshop helped construct the initial skeletal foundation which eventually blossomed into the current production. Angus asked Burke if we could have a character that’s not human, that’s a fundamental character and felt Burke would appreciate the challenge of a nearly impossible thing.


  Burke drew heavily on her passion of the environment and where society stands on issues like climate change. “Because of the pandemic, the environmental news is so dispiriting, if you allow yourself to doom scroll. If there’s something deeply personal for me in this play, it’s the notion of despair. I had to take it out for a walk, and see how I could respond to it that was genuine and not Pollyanna.” Burke said.  

Group Pod (l-r) Crispi Lord, Kyle Kuchirka, Peace Akintade, Savana Gallant Britainy Zapsha

The second and final workshop brought in additional cast members; Kirchirka and Gallant along with crew members, William Hales as Stage Manager with Edith Rattary doing music and sound with Lord doing double duty utilizing her previous expertise in puppetry.

Kyle Kuchirka Britainy Zapshalla(1).jpeg
Kyle Kuchirka, Peace Akintade 2 Britainy Zapshalla.jpeg

  Kirchirka’s past work includes previous Greystone Theatre productions, Globe Theatre’s Peter and the Wolf. He was also in S.E. Grummett’s Fringe production, Love Seat. Recent credits include Persephone Theatre’s A Solder’s War which also toured and diving into Wide Open Children's Theatre where he has been learning to use Muppet-style puppets and table top puppetry.


  Kirchirka describes his character Huck, as a traditional, male hero from a fairytale. “He has a scientific lens on the world and sees things as this way or that way. Angus likes to describe Huck as Wesley from Princess Bride.”

Kyle Kuchirka Britainy Zapshalla.jpeg
Kyle Kuchirka 4 Britainy Zapshalla.jpeg

  The plot, script and world really appealed to Kirchirka. “It lives in both a post- apocalyptic real world and fairy tale. Instead of it being a cautionary tale, I think it is a tale of hope and possibility and transformation. It asks, 'What is the end?' and 'Is there end?'” he said.

  The rehearsal process was a pleasant and different experience then Kirchirka had been used to. “The rehearsal process is an integrative process. We’re building, doing tech requirements instead of traditional theatre rehearsal process. Edith has the soundscape which we got to use. Whereas in the traditional theatre setting, you work the script, then tech week, then costumes, lighting and sound. You have four days to work on it, then boom, audiences!  We began been working with the sound very early and playing with Edith’s soundscape and characterization and getting the story into our bodies. Now we just get to refine it for the next few days.”


  Ferguson, Burke and Kirchirka were all very excited yet conscious of the task of mounting a project that is very thematic and allegorical while also a humorous, love story and fairytale intertwined.


  “I’d love if they walked away with questions and contemplating how to engage differently and positively. How can you live more holistically with nature?” Kirchirka said.


  Burke added, “It’s like an episode of The Twilight Zone eaten by a fairytale. Almost every fairy tale ever told was there to pass learning on to more people. I wanted to pass the fairytale on.”


  Greensleep runs from April 26th to May 12th at Dancing Sky Theatre in Meacham. Tickets can be bought online through On The Boards Staging Company or at the box office.


“It’s been an excruciatingly hard play to try to sell to people." said Ferguson. "The play is funny, warm and hopeful. It looks things in the eye, so come and experience it. My biggest hope is it lets us start talking about different things and opens doors. Come and have a think.” Ferguson said.  

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