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UNC Process Series presents virtual reading of play about life after climate crisis

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The UNC Process Series will virtually present a reading of “Cascade,” a play about the climate crisis written by UNC alumnus Jim Grimsley, on April 16 and 17. Photo courtesy of Joseph Megel.

The UNC Process Series will present a reading of “Cascade,” a play about the climate crisis written by UNC alumnus Jim Grimsley, on April 16 and 17. “Cascade” will be the last performance in The Process Series’ 13th season, which has been completely virtual. 

The play takes place in the not-so-distant future, where global warming is causing chaos and the breakdown of society, forcing the characters to migrate north. 

Grimsley, an author and playwright who taught writing at Emory University for 20 years, wrote “Cascade” in a 48-hour writing challenge in response to the book “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming” by David Wallace-Wells. 

“They’re facing the fact that they can’t stay where they are because it’s simply getting to be too hot and chaos is beginning to take over in North Carolina, so they’ve just got to get out,” Grimsley said. “I’m trying to write about a world in which everything that we know right now has been thrown up in the air by the fact that we didn’t pay any attention to the notion of global warming.”

Joseph Megel, the artistic director of The Process Series and StreetSigns Center for Literature and Performance, is directing the reading. He said StreetSigns had been looking to produce a play about climate change, and “Cascade” was exactly what they had been searching for.

Soon after the play was selected by StreetSigns, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

Grimsley said they have been trying to keep the energy moving forward with the play throughout isolation.

“We were writing a play about one disaster and another disaster overtook us all,” he said. “It’s sort of ironic and tragic at the same time.”

The reading of “Cascade” will be done over Zoom and live-streamed for audiences through Youtube. 

Megel thinks the play will translate well to Zoom because of its structure.

“Because of the type of play it is, it’s going to work really well because there’s a lot of people that speak in isolation,” Megel said. “Even in scenes that they’re having with other people, they’re not really with each other, they’re in separate spaces, and Zoom does that really well.”

Process Series producer Heather Tatreau said audiences can reserve a free ticket to watch the reading.

“They’ll be able to log in and watch the live-streaming reading of it and then afterwards they’ll be invited to a talkback Zoom session where they’ll have a chance to actually interact with the playwright and the actors and talk about what they got out of the play; what was confusing, what they liked about it, what resonated and how the audience can then continue to be a part of the process as this play develops,” Tatreau said.

Tatreau said StreetSigns is planning to do an in-person production of “Cascade” once it is safe to do so. 

Megel said it is great to be able to work with Grimsley, a graduate of UNC’s creative writing program, and present his work.

“When we are able to bring back an artist of his stature who came from this university, it’s a cause for celebration about the type of artists we have put out into the world and what they can create,” Megel said.

You can reserve a ticket for the reading of “Cascade” here.


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