Our second community-based play, The Next Storm (2019), takes place in the year 2030 in Ithaca, New York, which has a history of epic weather events. As the flood waters rise, citizens debate whether to support the construction of a hydroelectric dam and floatovoltaic energy grid to fuel an affordable housing complex for flood victims, the majority of whom live in a historically Black neighborhood. These projects would displace hundreds of people (mostly white, middle-class denizens), demolish historic homes, and block recreational access to a beloved waterfall. The future is at stake as the ravages of climate change erode this community’s way of life, leaving a city wondering: Who survives? Who decides? What sacrifices to our personal comfort are we willing to make to ensure a sustainable future? And, how do we mobilize and maintain hope in the face of an extinction-level event?
To the core team – Sara Warner, Godfrey L. Simmons, Jr., Sarah K. Chalmers, and Toby Ault – we welcomed assistant director Allen Porterie, new members of Civic Ensemble Sage Clemenco and Julia Taylor, and Jeremy Jimenez, assistant professor from neighboring SUNY Cortland. We also worked with alumni designers Sarah Lambert and Joey Moro and collaborated with local dramatist and climate journalist Thom Dunn, who helped us devise our play. Veteran applied theater playmaker, Rhodessa Jones, a Frank H.T. Rhodes Fellow in the Department of Performing and Media Arts, appeared in our performance, which we staged in Cornell’s Kiplinger Auditorium for two weeks in November 2019.