Spotlight: Superhero Clubhouse

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On Facebook and here on the SITI Company blog, SITI has been spotlighting alumni of our many training programs. Today, we have the great pleasure of spotlighting Jeremy Pickard and Lani Fu, the Directors of Superhero Clubhouse. Superhero Clubhouse is a New York-based collective of artists and scientists working at the intersection of environmentalism and theater. They create fictional performances rooted in complex environmental questions, practice ecological production, and collaborate across disciplines and communities to enact a thriving society. They believe theater is an essential tool for evolving our consciousness in the face of global environmental crises. Jeremy and Lani were kind enough to answer some questions for us!

 

Jeremy Pickard

1. When did you first train with SITI?

Skidmore 2006.

2. What are you most excited that you’re doing or working on right now?

This fall we launched a new initiative that we’re pretty excited about, called the Science and Stage Collaborative Fellowship. Over the course of four months, a select ensemble of theater artists and environmental experts are working together to create an original piece of theater that grapples with the complexities of climate change. We won’t know anything about the piece until December, but we do know that these Fellows are great talents, so you should probably plan on attending our Solstice Celebration on December 18 to catch the culminating performance. 

3. What is the most important thing you learned from SITI?

It’s hard to pinpoint one thing— I trained pretty consistently for 8 years, which is like a second undergraduate education. Today, I would say the most important thing I learned from SITI is how to work with the impossible. There’s the physically impossible, like trying to slide your foot across the floor with 100% of your weight on top of it. And there’s the intellectually impossible, like partnering molecules. And there’s the morally impossible, like balancing individualism with common good. Moral impossibilities are the hardest. At SHC we have three tools of eco-theater, and the third is “tangible hope”. Finding ways to actually practice this tool is confounding, but we know it’s essential to what we’re trying to do. A month away from an ugly election, I’d say “tangible hope” feels pretty impossible. But that’s the criteria, and if we don’t strive to meet it, we won’t actually be improving as people.

4. What in your creative life are you proudest of? 

I’m proud that Superhero Clubhouse still exists after nearly a decade. I’m proud of the community that has formed around these ideas, and how much better we’re collectively getting at turning the ideas into a body of solid work. 

5. Tell us about a piece of art that has recently inspired you.

I just revisited the Noguchi Museum, which is close to where I live in Queens. It’s a magical place that immediately makes you feel calmer upon entering. Most of Noguchi’s work is carved stone, big heavy hard beautiful stone; he was collaborating with nature and time, and it’s all so simple and hypnotizing. I kept circling this one piece called Planet in Transit #1, which looks like a polka-dotted bubble rising out of a slab of very black granite. It’s a miniature alien landscape, and also a snapshot of our world undergoing dark, dramatic change. Foreign and familiar - that’s pretty much my aesthetic. I’m also really into the planets, so it was especially special. 

Big Green Theater, photo by Sue Kessler

Flying Ace and the Storm of the Century, photo by Marina McClure

Lani Fu

1. When did you first train with SITI?

October 2014 in NYC.

2. What are you most excited that you’re doing or working on right now?

We’re working on creating a new play, PLUTO (no longer a play) that is an investigation of mass extinction, specifically the biodiversity crisis on Earth, right now. It’s invigorating to be grappling with a topic which has tremendous significance globally that simultaneously forces us to confront questions about our humanity in the most basic realms. It has become a challenge, artistically, for us to find hope in massive, irreversible loss - because the idea of ‘tangible hope’ is a key ingredient in each play we make. 

3. What is the most important thing you learned from SITI?

I have always understood art as essential to my life, and essential to the fabric of the world, inherently, without having the words to say why. Training at SITI highlighted and clarified for me how an artistic practice is a way of being in the world - that theater is a model for society. It makes me intensely conscious of the way I make work, and being rigorous about why it needs to be made.

4. What in your creative life are you proudest of?

I am proud of the fact that my work is fed by interdisciplinary research and collaboration, both in and outside of the arts, always. For me, if making theater is making the world, I want it to be a rich and varied world, well equipped to face the challenges ahead. 

5. Tell us about a piece of art that has recently inspired you.

E.M. Forster’s short story The Machine Stops. This is a pretty stunning piece of science fiction, written at the beginning of the 20th century, it reads as it could have been written last month. It’s a musing on a world in which human conception of space (literally, distance, area, scale), thought, and the physical earth, have been transformed by a Machine built by humans to replace society. I love reading science fiction. It asks a big, big, what if question - spins a new world out of that question, and asks us to reexamine ours through story. That’s the kind of work that excites me. 

EARTH, photo by Jill Steinberg

Keep up with our blog to read and learn about more SITI Alumni and what they’re up to by following SITI’s blogs at siti.org/blog. If there’s an alum you want an update on, email us at alumniupdates!siti.org!