Forward was partly inspired by a ten-day sailing expedition around the Svalbard Archipelago, located halfway between Norway and the North Pole. Spanning a hundred years and thousands of kilometres from the sixtieth parallel North to the top of the world, Forward presents a poetic history of energy development in Norway from the initial passion that drove explorer Fridtjof Nansen to the North Pole, to the consequences of decades of our addiction to fossil fuels. A blend of theatre and electropop music, the play progresses backwards from 2013 to 1893, and zeroes in on close to forty characters whose day-to-day lives illustrate how the choices we make often have unintended consequences. Woven through this history is the passionate love affair between Nansen and sea ice, embodied as a character in the play. Expressing herself only through song, Ice, who has waited for millennia for the arrival of her lover, is bracing to meet her destiny. A relay race through time, where each generation passes the baton to the next, Forward takes a compassionate look at the legacies we leave behind, and at what we are willing to do for love.
Ultimately, Forward is about climate change. It’s a story about how an Arctic explorer fell in love with Ice (embodied as a character in the play), and unwittingly opened up the Arctic for development. A story about people having good intentions that led to unintended consequences. A story about who we are in all our glorious imperfection. But Forward is also a story of hope. It is an invitation to collectively grieve for what we lost, for what we continue to lose every day, so that we can forgive ourselves. It is a reminder that if we come together as a community, we will find a solution.
Forward is the second play of the Arctic Cycle – a series of eight plays that examine the impact of climate change on the eight countries of the Arctic. The play takes its title from Nansen’s ship Fram, which is the Norwegian word for “forward.”
With a foreword by Una Chaudhuri, a professor at New York University who studies the geography of drama, and an introduction by Tael Naess, a Norwegian writer and playwright.
Chantal Bilodeau is a New York-based playwright and translator originally from Montreal. She serves as the artistic director of The Arctic Cycle – an organization created to support the writing of eight plays about the impact of climate change on the eight countries in the Arctic Circle – and is the founder of the blog Artists and Climate Change. Her plays have been produced and/or developed at theatres
and universities in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Italy, and Norway, and presented at sustainability, policy, and scientific conferences. She was awarded the Woodward International Playwriting Prize, and First Prize in the Earth Matters on Stage Ecodrama Festival and the Uprising National Playwriting Competition. She is the recipient of a Jerome Travel and Study Grant and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and has been in residence at Yaddo, MacDowell, the Banff Centre, and the National Theatre School of Canada.
"As in all of Walker's best work, there is a lot happening here on several levels. We laugh at the foibles of parents and teachers as Walker piles misfortune on coincidence on looming disaster. It is extremely funny and bitingly satirical. But then we are aware of a deep sadness under the surface. These are human beings struggling to survive against harsh odds and in the most taxing of circumstances. There is also abundant compassion for teachers. Deeper still is Walker's smouldering anger at the floundering educational system and at a society that actively discriminates against the poor and the marginalized ... extremely funny and bitingly satirical ... see it and rejoice; a new George Walker cycle is something to be celebrated." -Robert Crew, Toronto Star "George F. Walker's plays don't allow audiences to simply sit back and be entertained. Satiric, questioning, occasionally absurd but always with sympathy for his characters, Walker focuses on our social frameworks and the ways we're messed them up." -Jon Kaplan, NOW Magazine