Two things I’d never written: a love story and a science play. So I wrote THE ICE-BREAKER.
Following the success of Randall Arney’s production of GOD’S MAN IN TEXAS at the Geffen Playhouse, I was offered a commission from the Geffen and A.S.K. Theatre Projects. We kicked some ideas around, but nothing stuck – until I read a New Yorker article by the marvelous writer Elizabeth Kolbert about discovering the history of climate over millennia through drilling into the Greenland ice cap. I gave Randall the article with a note, “I think there’s a metaphor here I can’t resist.”
Thus began a year of research about climate science. I sought out geologists and climate specialists, read everything I could find on the Arctic and the logistics of ice core drilling. My initial sense was that the play should be intimate, about people more than science.
To let all the research settle in my mind, I gave myself a retreat: a drive through the southwest in the summer. My route was chased by wildfires, the desert sky turned purple and threatening with hailstorms, I went for days without having to speak to another human – it was an extraordinary couple of weeks.
The play took shape. I loved it, but the Geffen didn’t. Happily, The Magic Theatre in San Francisco did. Director Art Manke introduced it to them and we got a Sloan Foundation grant to help mount a premiere, along with the National New Plays Network. Art later staged it at The Laguna Playhouse, which was about as perfect a realization of the play as I could have hoped for.
THE ICE-BREAKER isn’t produced as much as it should be; maybe some theatres feel climate science is too controversial. That’s a shame; it’s a lovely, heartbreaking, thought-provoking visit with to people as strong and as vulnerable as the planet.