In Conversation with Georgina Beaty, Playwright and Performer of “Extremophiles” at Summerworks
by Bailey Green
A woman gives birth to an unusual child in a dying society. In a world that is collapsing in on itself, an anthropologist arrives at a remote outpost to study the mother and the strange child. In the world of Extremophiles, the north has been deserted, the oceans have acidified and reproduction has ceased. “I’m interested in how we deal with impossible situations,” playwright and performer Georgina Beaty says. “How we have impossible conversations, how do we deal with still being alive and having so much love for each other? How do we find the desire to keep going and achieve?”
The title of the play is a scientific term— extremophiles are microscopic organisms who survive in the most extreme environments. Extremophiles is set in a near future with a contemporary feel. It’s just ahead of where we are now, Toronto of 2020. “The absurdity has been very liberating,” Beaty says. “but it’s the relationship between the characters and dealing with the nitty-gritty of how they are connecting to each other that has been a challenge. Finding what they are going for in the moment, yet still providing those world-building details for the audience.”
The piece first took shape in 2013-14 when Beaty participated in Write from the Hip, Nightwood Theatre’s year-long playwriting program for new writers. Extremophiles is the first piece Beaty has written individually, as the four shows she has created with her company Architect Theatre (Beaty is co artistic director with Jonathan Seinen) have used verbatim work and collective creation.
The process for this show involved a great deal of improvisation and work with dramaturge Karen Hines. “Karen has a great eye for dark comedy and a really precise understanding of alternative logic,” Beaty says. “It’s not a well-made play, it has a slippery form and two characters who bleed into each other. So we did a lot of improvisational work to generate material and then I would shape that as a writer.”
“I keep being blown away that this is a 10 person team,” Beaty says of the creative crew of Extremophiles. “The people in the room have broad theatrical minds and are involved in several aspects of theatre. [Director] Megan Watson has a hunger for different approaches to theatre and a mind for collaboration. Erin and Sarah [of Caterwaul Theatre] are bringing the child to life. It has been so great to have Megan, who is newer to the process, come in with all the questions the audience may have.”
The play explores themes of isolation in a world that once relied on the internet for connectivity and now finds that all that human beings have is each other and how intimate that need for connection can be. “I’m in my early 30’s and I’m at this age where it is possible for us to have children and reproduce and also ask this question of reproduction,” Beaty says. “We’re in a world that looks like it will be dealing with the severe fallout of climate change, and that ‘what if’ is part of the play. What if the world changed quite drastically?”
Company: Golden Age in association with Architect Theatre
Directed by Megan Watson; Written + Performed by Georgina Beaty; Dramaturged by Karen Hines; Production Design by Patrick Lavender; Live Visuals by Caterwaul Theatre; Sound Design by Chris Stanton; Stage Management by Tamara Vuckovic; Production Management by Daniel Bennett; Produced by Sascha Cole, with Rashida Shaw.
“Field Notes –
September 1, 2020. I’ve arrived. The desert is a desert. There is only Margaret, her baby, and one doctor. The supply drop contained: tuna (live), salt tablets, and me. I parachuted out of a plane. It is… exciting…is the wrong word but it is the only one I have. The question: What is going on right here, right now?”
A darkly funny meditation on a world past the precipice, Extremophiles is an unconventional dissertation, a eulogy, and a mid-apocalyptic bedtime story. In the midst of a spontaneous pregnancy epidemic, only Margaret gives birth – to a very unusual baby. She is quarantined in the far North with her growing child. When April, an eager young anthropologist, arrives to chronicle the emerging society, she becomes more entangled than she anticipated. Featuring live visuals from SummerWorks favourites Caterwaul Theatre, Golden Age and Architect Theatre (Like There’s No Tomorrow, SummerWorks 2015) present Extremophiles, a new solo play written and performed by Georgina Beaty.
“There are a growing number of artistic responses to climate crisis but this is one that goes beyond. This is beautifully committed allegory – it touches a nerve as it presents an absurd and acutely recognizable dystopia that investigates the truth of the times in which we are living. It bends our brains in a delicious way and asks us to look at our state of affairs. It is a rigorously attacked performance, so earnest and intelligent it can only ring true.” – Tara Beagan
The Theatre Centre BMO Incubator
1115 Queen Street West
Sunday August 7th 10:30 PM – 11:30 PM
Monday August 8th 5:15 PM – 6:15 PM
Thursday August 11th 9:30 PM – 10:30 PM
Saturday August 13th 2:45 PM – 3:45 PM
Sunday August 14th 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM
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