A conference at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts,

Nov 24-26, 2023

Registration Deadline for online and in person sessions is November 23rd at noon Atlantic Time.

ACTS OF RESILIENCE is a hybrid conference instigated by Two Planks and a Passion Theatre Company. Bringing together organizations and artists dedicated to outdoor performance, this gathering is dedicated to sharing knowledge and developing new strategies related to the climate crisis. 

The conference will include sessions ranging from the practical (how are our conditions of work changing and how must we adapt?) to the high-level (how are our relationships with audiences changing and what are our responsibilities as storytellers in mitigating the crisis?). This three-day gathering will be held at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts in rural Nova Scotia, and the initial strategies and ideas developed during the conference will be shared widely.

Registration is open and is Pay-What-You-Can. Please Note: All sessions will be recorded with the exception of David Maggs keynote address, which will be available live (online) only.

The challenges the climate crisis presents to our entire society are undeniably huge and present in every community, workspace and home. This gathering of professional performance companies who work outdoors in collaboration with nature is focussed on our specific sector and the challenges we now face, from the practical to the existential. Some of the most important are:

1) How are our conditions of work changing? What new guidelines, measurements or strategies need to be put in place in order to protect the health and welfare of theatre/performance workers?

2) How do we communicate with the general public about the climate crisis and its impacts? What does that conversation look like?

3) How does our public profile change given how closely our work is associated with nature and, by association, an existential crisis? How do we work in that new reality?

4) What are our responsibilities as storytellers and community institutions in confronting the crisis?

5) Are the changes ahead of us a matter of gradual adaptation, or is this crisis something we can’t simply adapt to?

6) Many of our stakeholders create work in geographically remote locations without public transportation. What is the true carbon footprint of our work? How can/should this be measured?

7) How will accessibility to our work be adversely impacted by the changing climate?

8) What further measures can we take to further green our organizations?

This project is a response to an emergency. We, as artists who create work in partnership with nature, are overwhelmed by both the immediate impact of the climate crisis, and grappling with the longer-term ramifications for our relationships and communities. We must work together to share experiences, develop strategies and ask uncomfortable questions.

Please note, if you are travelling and our accommodations are full, you can also try the Old Orchard Inn.

Conference Schedule Summary (subject to change)

Please note: zoom links will be sent to online registrants
All times are Atlantic Time.

All sessions in bold are online sessions.

Friday, November 24th 1-5 p.m. In-person check-in at Ross Creek
5 p.m. In-person dinner
6:30 p.m. Conference Welcome: Ken Schwartz and Chris O’Neill
6:45 p.m. Conference Opening: shalan joudry
7:30 p.m. Break
7:45 p.m.

Conference Key Note: David Maggs

Closing the Culture Gap – The culture gap in the climate crisis is, arguably, wider than the technology gap, or the policy gap, or other areas where the difference between status quo and climate positive persists. But what is the culture gap? How should we make sense of it? And what capacities do we have to work proactively within it? This talk explores themes of pathological ideologies and historical ironies while leaning into the myth of Oedipus to understand the climate crisis from a cultural perspective. It considers the growing interest in transformative change as an effort to resist the tragic irony currently unfolding around the world, attempting to clarify what transformative change entails and how it differs from standard change agendas of Western materialism. With these arguments in mind, we turn to art, interested in how a relationship between art and sustainability might address the culture gap and find its essential role on a planet on fire.  

8:30 p.m. End of online conference, Campfire
10:00 p.m. End of Conference day.
Saturday, November 25th 8:30 a.m. Breakfast
9:30 a.m. Regional roundtable and networking sessions
11:30 a.m. Break
11:45 a.m. Group artistic activity, on the land.
1:00 p.m. Lunch
2 p.m.

Session 1a: Accessibility in the Climate Crisis.

Sara Graham (Sara Graham Accessibility) leads a conversation on accessibility challenges in outdoor performance, how these challenges are amplified by the Climate Crisis and possible strategies we can employ to meet those challenges.

Session 1b: Creation in the Crisis: Artists directly addressing the crisis.

Chantal Bilodeau (Arts and Climate Initiative) Dustin Harvey (Secret Theatre) and Tannis Kowalchuk (Farm Arts Collective) discuss their work which directly and explicitly addresses the Climate Crisis.


3:15 p.m. Break
3:30 p.m.

Session 2: Why Do We Gather? 

Gathering Purpose to Meet this Moment

Estelle Shook (Artistic Director, Caravan Farm Theatre) leads a conversation about what it means to gather in a moment when performance is sometimes not possible, our responsibility as story-tellers in a time of crisis and our shifting relationships with our communities. 

5 p.m. Dinner
6 p.m.

Session 3A: Our Changing Conditions of Work:

How are our conditions of work changing in the Climate Crisis? How must our creative processes adapt to support the health and resiliency of our collaborators, our sites of work, and our communities? Megan Stewart (Artistic Director of the River Clyde Pageant) leads a conversation on outdoor performance and our rapidly changing environment.

Session 3 B: Visioning our Future

Staging 2040

A big picture scenario-planning exercise led by Devon Harvey to get the creative juices flowing and imagine resilient futures where presenting work outdoors can be adapted to a changing climate. Participants will work together to respond to scenarios proactively with ambitious ideas; some practical, some bizarre, it’s up to you!


7:30 p.m. Break, end of online activity
7:45 p.m. Torchlight Walk and Charcoal making/art activity.
9:30 p.m. End of Day Two
Sunday, November 26th 9:30 a.m. Breakfast
10:30 a.m. Regional In-Person Meeting
12:15 Lunch Break
1:30 p.m.

Session 4: Rapporteur(s) and closing remarks

Conference Rapporteurs Sara Graham and Garry Williams wrap up what has been seen and heard both online and in-person at the conference. A discussion on the emerging themes and potential next steps. 

Followed by online conference closing remarks

3:30 p.m. In person closing


Key Note speakers include:

shalan joudry, an L’nu (Mi’kmaw) narrative artist working in many mediums. She is a poet, playwright, podcast producer, oral storyteller and actor, as well as a cultural interpreter. Her unique specialty is performing for audiences around a campfire. 

In 2016 shalan graduated with a Master of Environmental Studies from Dalhousie University and was nominated for a Governor General Gold Medal award for her thesis work on Mi’kmaw ways of knowing about fire on the land. In her role as a conservation ecologist, shalan uses Two-eyed Seeing methodologies to ground mainstream ecologists into L’nu cultural perspectives to work more effectively together on conservation programs. shalan, along with her partner, Frank Meuse, facilitates eco-cultural and ecological professional development workshops in a forest retreat within her home community.

David Maggs carries on an active career as an interdisciplinary artist and researcher focused on arts, climate change, and sustainability. He is the founder and pianist for Dark by Five,has written works for the stage, and created augmented reality and virtual reality projects which have been included in the UK’s Future of Live Performance Spotlight Gallery. David is the artistic director of the rural Canadian interarts organization Camber Arts. He initiated and co-produced the CBC doc channel film The Country, exploring the Canadian government’s handling of indigenous identity in Newfoundland. As a fellow at the University of Toronto’s Munk School for Global Affairs, David co-authored Sustainability in an Imaginary World (Routledge Press, 2020) with mentor and longtime collaborator John Robinson, exploring the relationship between art and sustainability. He is former senior fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Sustainability in Potsdam, Germany, where he led work on culture and climate change.  

Following the publication of Art and the World After This, David became the inaugural Fellow on Art and Society at the Metcalf Foundation. In collaboration with the UK Innovation Foundation NESTA, he co-authored a report on groundbreaking work on impact investing in cultural and creative industries.  David has been a featured speaker at the Canadian Arts Summit, The International Transdisciplinarity Conference (Leuphana), The American Association for the Advancement of Science (Vancouver), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Zurich), the International Association for Analytical Psychology (Berlin), The Arts of Living with Nature (Kyoto), and is the upcoming keynote guest at the International Society of Music Educators this July in Helsinki.  


Chantal Bilodeau is a Montreal-born, New York-based playwright and translator whose work focuses on the intersection of storytelling and the climate crisis. She is the founding artistic director of the Arts & Climate Initiative, where she has spearheaded initiatives for over a decade, getting theatre and educational communities, as well as audiences in the U.S. and abroad, to engage in climate action through programming that includes live events, talks, publications, workshops, artists convenings, and a worldwide distributed theatre festival.

Tannis Kowalchuk is an organic farmer on Willow Wisp Organic Farm and the founding artistic director of Farm Arts Collective. She directs the Farm Arts Collective ensemble in the creation of devised site specific performances including Dream on the Farm, a 10 year–long cycle of plays about climate change being created from 2020-2030. Other past work includes Trees, El Viento, and Shakespeare on the Farm.  Tannis is currently touring Decompositions, a solo performance that she has written. As founding co-artistic director of NACL Theatre in New York, past work includes COURAGE (Collaboration Award Women in the Arts and Media 2019), The Weather Project, STRUCK (Cleveland Public Theatre, HERE NYC), The Little Farm Show, Self Portrait at County Fair, Lost Book of Lakewood House, The Uncanny Appearance of Sherlock Holmes, The Confessions of Punch and Judy,  10 Brecht Poems, The Passion according to G.H. Tannis trained in ensemble physical theatre practices with Primus Theatre in Canada, and at The University of Winnipeg, BA Theatre.

Estelle Shook, Artistic Director of Caravan Farm Theatre. Estelle has produced, developed, and directed over 45 outdoor productions for the company, and has devoted her professional career to advancing the art form of large-scale, site-specific theatre. Additional projects include associate directing the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Louis Riel with Peter Hinton, directing the Canadian Stage premiere of Jordan Tannahill’s Sunday in Sodom, which garnered six Dora nominations and won the Dora award for Outstanding Production. Also for Canadian Stage, she has directed Julius Caesar and The Winter’s Tale, and toured Stan Douglas’s Helen Lawrence to Brooklyn and Antwerp.

Megan Stewart is a theatre artist residing and working in Epekwitk (Prince Edward Island).  A director, producer, dramaturge and performer, much of her practice centres upon large-scale collaborative theatre projects and community-engaged creation. She has established several ongoing festivals and performance events on PEI, including the March of the Crows for Art in the Open in 2011 (with Jamie Shannon & Harmony Wagner) and the Island Fringe Festival with Sarah Segal-Lazar in 2012. She is the artistic director and co-founder (with Ker Wells) of The River Clyde Pageant, a non-profit that produces a season of spectacular, community-engaged outdoor theatre and art events in New Glasgow, PEI. Recent work includes direction and dramaturgy for Leah Abramson’s Songs for a Lost Pod, which premiered in Vancouver in 2022; co-directing summer productions of The River Clyde Pageant; and guiding the creation of The Soley Cove Legacy Project in Economy, Nova Scotia in 2021. She is a graduate of Simon Fraser University’s MFA program in Interdisciplinary Arts. www.meganblythe.com

Dustin Harvey, Creative Director: Dustin creates new ways of being together while shedding light on how we’ve grown apart. Over the years, Dustin invited people to slow dance with strangers in disused storefronts, confess secrets to a scene partner thousands of kilometres away through text message, and engage with strangers in public locations and busy city street corners from Aarhus, Denmark to Whitehorse, Yukon. Dustin’s work is collaborative and connected to XOSECRET (Secret Theatre, Halifax). Dustin trained as an actor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in England and has a BA in Theatre Studies from Acadia University. Publications include Canadian Theatre Review (Issues 126, 134, 159, 180), Les Possibles (La Serre, Montreal), and KLAXON Magazine (Cifas, Brussels). Dustin wrote a chapter entitled ‘Make What You Need’ for the book ‘In Defence Of Theatre: Aesthetic Practices and Social Interventions,’ published by Toronto University Press in 2016.

Sara Graham is a Deaf and Disabled Accessibility Consultant for Arts and Creative Spaces. In addition to her lived experience and advocacy for accessibility, she has held roles as a Youth Mental Health Counsellor, Boys & Girls Club Manager and Housing Support Worker. Sara has worked with several theatre companies throughout Kjipuktuk, and has facilitated and presented on the subjects of Accessibility and Inclusion with local non-profits. Sara takes an intersectional approach to their advocacy.

Devon Hardy is an environmental specialist with a background in environmental sciences and water resources management. After working in the environmental field since 2011, she decided to pursue a career in the arts and in 2018 she began working on sustainability initiatives in partnership with different arts organizations across Canada. She managed the adaptation of Julie’s Bicycle’s Creative Green Tools to the Canadian context, and is now the Program Director for the Creative Green Tools Canada program through the Centre for Sustainable Practice in the Arts.

Garry Williams is an actor, director, singer, writer, musical director, composer-lyricist. He is the Artistic Director of DaPoPo Theatre, whose oeuvre includes The FEAR Project, Café DaPoPo, DaPoPo’s The Drinking Game, as well as various site specific and outdoor performances at Alderney Landing, the Halifax-Dartmouth Ferry, and around the HRM. He has worked with various companies and institutions including LunaSea Theatre, Onelight Theatre, Workshirt Opera, and Two Planks and a Passion. He received a Merritt Award for his performance as Polonius/Gravedigger in Hamlet (SBTS), and for his original score for KAMP (EFT/Neptune), and a Creative NS 2023 Established Artist Recognition Award. Most recently, he appeared as Andrzej in Skylark Song (PageOne/OutFest), wrote music & lyrics for Rain on the Parade (Villains), musically directed A Windfall in the Hollow (River Clyde Pageant), and directed A Beginner’s Guide to the Night Sky (Villains).

Sara Hartland-Rowe attended NSCAD (BFA 1990) before moving to Chicago for post-graduate work (MFA, UIC Chicago, 1993). She returned to Halifax in 2000. Hartland-Rowe has exhibited across Canada, the US, South America, and Europe. Significant solo and two-person exhibitions include Small World (Museum for Textiles, 1998), Days Are Where We Live (Museum London, 2000), The World in the Evening (Dalhousie University Art Gallery, 2002), The Prince (Durham Art Gallery, 2003), all things good and pure (Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, 2004, Look to the Living (MSVU Art Gallery, 2012), Us (touring, 2019) and sweet, sweet painting (Hermes Gallery, 2020). Her work is in public and private collections; she has received grants from the Canada Council, the Ontario Arts Council and Arts No a Scotia. Travellers, a public-art commission for Halifax Transit, was short-listed for the Lieutenant-Governor’s Prize in 2015. Hartland-Rowe is a part-time instructor at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design where she teaches, among other things, a seminar on colour as a cultural as well as a material phenomenon.