As I enter the beautiful new front doors of the GCTC, I find myself in a lobby buzzing with the excitement of opening night. I immediately feel welcomed into the exciting world of 12. On the first floor, there are photos of each actor accompanied by costume sketches and a variety of scripts that represent the evolution of the piece since its inception in 2018. Then, on my way up the stairs and throughout the upper level, I am greeted by art created by youth in response to climate change. The exhibit, Footsteps through 12, curated and designed by Stella Fisher, a grade 12 student at Elmwood School, greatly enhances the pre-show atmosphere, turning the upper lobby into an impromptu art gallery.
The theatre itself is packed with a multi-generational audience, ranging in age from 9 to 99. A lone actor sits on a stool upstage center and other actors stand at intervals along the staircase. After the traditional land acknowledgment and thanking of sponsors, we are welcomed to the show by the lovely creator and director of 12, Kristina Watt-Villegas, who keeps her introduction short and sweet, wanting to center the voices of her youth ensemble.
Then, the show begins. At the very beginning and again at intervals throughout the play, the actors wind in and around one another in a flurry of movement. The choreography is visually engaging and purposeful, creating the sense of urgency and uncertainty that the theme demands. Conversely, they often come to stand in a straight line or some other organized formation, facing outward, in silence. This brilliant use of silence and gaze implicates the audience in a visceral way and, combined with the use of direct address, sets us up as active participants in the theatrical experience.
Essentially, the piece is a series of vignettes about climate change but that description doesn’t do the experience justice. It is a political demonstration, a social revolution, a call to action. It’s also an intimate look into the minds and hearts of a thoughtful generation who have inherited a broken system. This strong ensemble bravely shares their fears and their hopes on stage, and I feel honoured to be in this space and share this moment in time with them.
At the end of the show, the actors ask the audience, “How do you feel?” Some audience members answer, “afraid” or “guilty”, while others feel “hopeful” or “inspired”. After the audience finishes sharing their diverse and complex feelings, one of the actors says, “I feel all of that too.” That rang true: the myriad of feelings all of us have relating to the state of our world and the future of the human race in the face of climate change. 12 will make you feel all of that too, so go and see one of the four remaining performances: Friday, May 5th at 12:00pm and 7:00pm, and Saturday, May 6th at 2:00pm and 7:00pm. Matinees include ASL interpretation.
Written by: JB for Covert Ottawa Guy