Lend Us Your Ears, Don’t Forget Your Farm Boots


Watching a game at the Willow Wisp Organic Farm in Damascus, Pa. has a simple but highly recommended dress code: sturdy shoes.

The farm, which recently finished a site-specific game series on climate change, features a courtyard surrounded by hydrangeas, greenhouses and a flower field in endless scenery. More than four nights last week, spectators marched outdoors, walking from stage to stage as actors, musicians, and long-legged walkers performed in lively, bizarre costumes.

The performance is the second installment of the decade-long “Dream on the Farm” series, in which the Farm Arts Collective, whose home is on a 30-acre estate, plans to produce a one-year play focusing on climate change.

“This is a busy and troubling time, and as an organic farmer and theater producer we must continue to work on it,” said Tannis Kowalchuk, artistic director of the community that started the farm, located just across the river. From New York – with her husband Greg Swartz. (They sell their produce at Union Square and Grand Army Plaza farmers’ markets.)

This year’s game took guests to an “Alice in Wonderland”-like fantasy in which two scientists, astronomer Carl Sagan and biologist Lynn Margulis, are brought back from the dead to help save life on Earth from climate catastrophe. Viewers watch as Sagan encounters eccentric characters representing the atmosphere and hydrosphere, as well as a man trying to find a way to escape the planet via space travel. The rest of the group followed the character of Margulis on the other side of the farm. (The audience was divided into two to avoid crowds.)

At the end of the show, cold cucumber soup made with ingredients grown on land was served to the audience of about 80 people.

But the reality of the pandemic burst the fantasy bubble on Sunday after one of the people in the accompanying group tested positive for the coronavirus despite being vaccinated, and the art collective decided to cancel the fifth and final performance.

Kowalchuk said he hopes the game will be played again. He dreamed of bringing it to New York, where the community could find a new scene in a park or botanical garden.


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