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Theatre

Thinking Globally, Acting Locally: La Jolla joins worldwide Climate Change theater event

climate change play.jpg
John Tessmer poses in the Great Room at La Jolla Community Center, where he is about to direct and act in a program of a dozen short plays about climate change.
(COREY LEVITAN)

Global thinking will be locally acted on Sunday, Dec. 15 and Tuesday, Dec. 17, when the La Jolla Theatre Ensemble (LJTE) presents “Lighting the Way” at La Jolla Community Center (LJCC).

The program consists of 12 short plays and stories about climate change from among 50 commissioned this year by the Climate Change Theatre Action (CCTA) activism group. (Founded in 2015, CCTA reactivates every two years to coincide with the United Nations’ Conference of the Parties on climate change.)

LJTE will be one of 250 community theater groups in 25 countries inspired to piece together productions from these works between Sept. 15 and Dec. 20, 2019.

“It’s a very varied program, with all kinds of different tones and styles,” said John Tessmer, LJTE’s artistic director.

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Read by Tessmer and a cast of six other actors — including Ciarlene Coleman, Ed Hollingsworth, Aaron Lugo and Cristina Soria — “Lighting the Way” will include a Philip Braithwaite play called “Ice Flow,” which depicts a conversation between three melting icebergs.

“They’re different characters, so one of them is older and very cynical, one of them is just very sad, and the other one is younger and has a more optimistic personality,” Tessmer said.

Another play, by Canadian playwright Jordan Hall, is a plunge into black humor called “The Donation.”

“A young man who’s drunk shows up at an environmental non-profit and wants to donate his life to the organization,” Tessmer said. “If he offs himself, he explains, he will save the planet a lot more than if he sticks around.”

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There’s also “Appealing,” a two-woman play by Paula Cizmar in which a freelance photographer reacts to being assigned to capture climate change in photos.

“She wants to shoot gruesome images,” Tessmer said, “but her editor wants the photos to be more attractive, so that people don’t look away.”

A professional actor for more than 30 years — the last five of which he’s managed to negotiate without holding a day job — Tessmer is a former full-time grant writer and employee of Warwick’s and the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library.

In 2010, he co-founded LJTE, which has staged performances just about every month since — usually at the La Jolla Library, the St. James By-the-Sea Episcopal Church or the LJCC. (The Ensemble’s original name was the Riford Readers, commemorating a time when the LJCC was called the Riford Center.)

Tessmer said he only learned about CCTA this year, and decided to dedicate its December performance to the organization.

“I’ve always been attuned to matters of social conscience and justice,” he said, “and my sister just had a baby last year, so it has made me think more about the future, the country and the planet.”

IF YOU GO: “Lighting the Way” will be staged 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15 and Tuesday, Dec. 17 at La Jolla Community Center, 6811 La Jolla Blvd. Suggested donation: $10. (858) 459-0831. ljcommunitycenter.org


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