From the Far East to the Far North

Horseshoes & Hand Grenades is going from Bangladesh to Iceland and Greenland in less than 24 hours! Well, not so literally as that, but close. Here’s co-artistic director Sean Devine to tell you about what’s going on:

We just closed  SUIT UP, a collective creation for subDevision that was based on survivor accounts of the tragic Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013 in Bangladesh, using those official transcripts in juxtaposition with transcripts from the Loblaws fiscal earnings report from the fiscal quarter in which the tragedy took place (Loblaws product line Joe Fresh was one of the manufacturers implicated in the building collapse).

The driving theme for this piece came from the remarks of Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, in an important speech he gace to the Council on Foreign Relations. Addressing the role that technology has had on bridging the awareness gap between rich and poor, Dr. Kim said:

“Everyone knows how everyone else lives. While we in the rich world may be blind to the suffering of the poor, the poor throughout the world are very much aware of how the rich live, and they have shown that they are willing to take action.”

And now I’m sitting in an airport getting ready for a flight to Reykjavik and then Nuuk, for a lighting-quick 5-day trip to the capitals of Iceland and Greenland, as part of a new project I’m developing along with HHG Theatre associate artist Emily Pearlman called HANS ISLAND / TARTUPALUK (Can an unclaimed island help me be happy?)Still very much in its infancy, this new project is about the elusive search for happiness and Utopia, and the many ways in which the State tries to corrupt and corrode even the noblest of human pursuits.

I’ll be posting short field logs about my discoveries and exchanges in Iceland and Greenland, as we set off on a multi-year project that we hope turns into an international collaboration for 2017.

First up – Reykjavik, Iceland. For many years, this small island-nation was the model for social democracy and fair economy. But in 2008, Iceland went through a calamitous financial meltdown on a scale never before seen in history. Essentially bankrupt, the country bucked the trend of corrupt governments imposing austerity measures and decided to get rid of their government instead. Then they took it one step further and launched a citizen-led process in which they set out to rewrite their constitution and re-set the country’s national values. They were well on their way to establishing a new Utopia where the values of honesty and integrity were literally to be inscribed in the constitution as the nation’s top values. But, as so often happens, the deep roots of corruption managed to thwart the entire process, terminating the constitutional process and returning Ice;and to a depressing status quo.

Tomorrow I’m meeting with Thorhildur Thorleifsdottir, an Iceland theatre director who had been selected as one of the 25 diverse Icelanders trusted with rewriting the constitution. As with many of her compatriots, I can only presume that she’s in shock and dismay over what happened to her beloved nation that had nearly discovered Utopia. I’m going to talk to her about what happened, and where the country is headed now.

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