The Wastelands is a traveling, surrealist folk opera inspired by Robert and Shana Parkeharrison’s The Architecht’s Brother and Dante Aligheri’s Purgatorio. Guided by a queer, skeletal Virgil, The Wastelands takes audiences on a journey through a netherworld of seven terraces, based on the seven stages of grief. The Wastelands explores how to survive in a world which no longer provides, and ultimately asks the question: how do we find hope in despair?
The Wastelands was developed at Double Edge Theatre in Ashfield, MA and premiered in June 2016 and toured along the Great Lakes Basin — from Buffalo, NY to Minneapolis, MN — from June to October 2016.
Everywhere our civilization goes, it leaves skeletons in its wake: ruins of factories, overgrown landfills, clear-cut forests. All across the United States we see these ruins, these wastelands, but with this empty devastation there’s always something else partnered with it; wild beginning to heal what civilization has destroyed.
How and why this rewilding happens, not just in landscapes, but also in humans, is the central story of The Wastelands. We believe these wastelands exist within ourselves as well as in the visible world; the forces behind a profit-driven culture, and its privileging of certain populations over others in a system of extreme control, have done great damage to people, individually and collectively. We believe in the need to evolve and grow beyond a culture that turns the world into commodities, because the inevitable consequence is that we commodify and objectify ourselves.
We believe that a first step in rewilding is beginning to have hope that other ways of life are possible – that we are not trapped in a culture where the value of life is based solely on utility. Our performance is not about proposing a program for how to do this; we are not trying to convince anyone of another system to replace what we have. Instead, we are asking the questions: What else is possible? How does one find hope in despair? What does it mean to rewild oneself and one’s community? What are the wastelands, and how can they transform into the wild, in the world and in ourselves?