An illuminating work of documentary theater, The Tar Sands Songbook asks us to reconsider our unseen relationships with oil. Creator Tanya Kalmanovitch knows these relationships all too well. Born in Fort McMurray, Canada, near the site of the Athabasca Oil Sands, the world’s largest bitumen reservoir, she made her decision to become a musician as a teenager because “it had nothing to do with oil.” Fort McMurray has since become a flashpoint of international clashes over energy, the environment, and the economy. Kalmanovitch’s polyphonic piece weaves together a chorus of actors’ voices with an original, improvised score. The words of indigenous activists, engineers, heavy equipment operators, elders, oil patch workers, scientists, and those of her own family fuel discussions of our past and the powerful forces that shape our future.
The Tar Sands Songbook was workshopped at The New School in October 2017 and March 2018.