Sunny talks about the making of his new global theatrical podcast
Our core team interviewed creator and lead artist Sunny Drake, about making a global theatrical podcast.
Q: Where did the idea come from?
In 2019, I did a three week residency on a tall ship in the high Arctic, north of Scandinavia, with 30 artists and scientists. We visited the world's most northern climate research station, where scientists do all their science stuff. You know, look smart in their lab coats and do impressive calculations and release daily weather balloons. This gives them really important local info. Although to understand climate change, we need both this really local info and also the global: they combine their data with a network of hundreds of other weather stations with other smart science people in equally cool lab coats.
So I thought, let’s do the same thing with artists. I invited 9 teams of artists across the world to each create local audio dramas which are then funneled into a global podcast series and live events. While the scientists investigate all that science stuff, our artists are investigating all the human stuff: the stories that shape how we’ve gotten into this climate mess and some different stories to help us out.
The reality is: stories matter as much as facts. Of course we need the facts from the scientists otherwise we might just be like “wow it’s kind of hot and stormy these last few decades”. But facts don’t change culture and our ways of living. Stories do.
Q: Why make a podcast?
It’s cool that we have an unlimited set and costume budget, with minimal carbon emissions! We can tour it internationally at the press of a button. I love theatres, and it’s also super fun that we can bring audio plays into people’s homes, schools, workplaces, to policy decision-makers, climate justice frontliners and into local community centres.
Q: Tell us a bit about the kinds of stories we can expect. No spoilers, please.
We’ve got episodes about climate and geopolitics, greenwashing, environmental racism, corporations wreaking havoc, yikes! So, the series explores serious themes, but uses enjoyable stories to ease us into them. In fact, the series is way more fun than dying in the apocalypse. I promise.
We’ve got 9 short episodes made by 9 creative teams from across the world. There will be an angry panda in a nuclear submarine off the coast of India, who is given the task of seeking and destroying “climate change” itself. Totally simple, just plug in the coordinates and BOOM! Problem solved!
In another episode the US military tries to go green. What could possibly go wrong? Given that they’re one of the world’s largest institutional polluters, could it get much worse? Spoiler alert: yes, it gets much much worse.
We’ll also hear what happens when the sky falls in Nigeria, and when a Toad has a standoff with a Tortoise in Mauritius. And how a real estate agent manages to close a sale in Chile on an oceanfront property that’s going to be submerged: haven’t you always dreamed of waking up to the sound of waves lapping in your living room? Now that’s a soundtrack to sleep by.
And when a couple’s home floods in Toronto and Amazon tries next-level absurd tactics to stop them from taking it seriously: Amazon why would you do that?
We’ll hear Nan and Pop in the Aussie outback get a rude surprise when their grand-daughter educates them about cow farts. While on the other side of the world, a grandmother has the last word in an Indigenous community in rural Canada.
Then of course, there is a pyromaniac lion. Like, because every fiction series needs a pyromaniac lion. Obviously.
Q: Is it true that the flooding sounds in your episode, Absolutely Nothing Of Any Meaning, are real?
While we were creating my episode, which involves a flood in a house, one of our audio producers had… a mini flood in her house. But instead of leaving absurd reviews on Amazon about the newly delivered couch (like the couple does in the episode), our audio producer got out her microphone and recorded sounds of the flood for the podcast - what a champion! Talk about life imitating art imitating life.
Q: Why did you decide that many of the episodes should use humour to explore climate change?
My lunch kept getting soggy since I would sob into my sandwich every day about the dire state of the world. So I thought my sandwiches would taste better if I could laugh about it rather than cry. And then I would have more energy for getting involved with climate movements since I wasn’t continually having to make new sandwiches. Does anyone else have this problem?
Q: How do you talk to your family about Climate Change?
Mostly we sob into our sandwiches together. Then we get hungry and change the topic. So I’m hoping this will be a different way in to talking with family and friends - letting the enjoyment draw us in sideways into deeper conversations. Without ruining our lunch.
Q: Do you sometimes feel like giving up?
I never despair or get fed up or feel like giving up or scream in the shower. I also never get confused about what the hell to do about it all. I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Q: What would you consider a win, after this?
People having the nourishment to keep going and being inspired to join local climate movements!
Q: What’s next for you?
Writing a full length climate play! And premiering CHILD-ish in Vancouver: a theatre piece where adults speak children’s exact words about love, life and the world. Drawn from interviews with over 40 whip-smart and brutally honest children, a dynamite adult cast will allow an adult audience to hear kids’ ideas and experiences anew. You can check out the web series adaptation here.
I’ll also be adapting two of my comedies into TV shows (Every Little Nookie and Men Express Their Feelings) and waiting by the phone for the call saying someone has picked the series up…