EF! is a new musical about the 40-year old Earth First! movement.
It’s an immersive performance that imagines the audience as attendees of the movement’s annual summer gathering. What makes this project unique is that performances will actually be held outdoors at natural sites actively threatened by development or industry, where activists are currently fighting on the front lines. It’s a Broadway-style musical that will literally bring audiences into the direct action environmental movement.
Donna Oblongata is writing the script/lyrics.
Sequoia Sellinger is composing the music.
Courtney Elkin Mohler is the dramaturg.
And there’s gonna be a whole bunch of other people involved, too!
The idea for a musical about Earth First! came from Maren Ward (currently of zAyma Theater, and co-founder of Bedlam Theatre in Minneapolis). Back in 2013, Maren pitched the idea to Donna, who thought it seemed like a reasonable thing to do. Together, we held two month-long development workshops (one in Minneapolis and one in Florida) to get the project rolling. It was great!
Just after we finished that second workshop, Standing Rock happened. That was followed immediately by the 2016 election, which bled into the pandemic. We justifiably tabled the project! But now, thankfully, everything is better and simple and completely carefree, so we can get back to it.
What We Need
Through grants and larger private donations, we’ve already raised most of the money we need to make this workshop happen. This last $15,000 will help us pay everyone fairly, keep everyone fed, and document the entire project so we can keep moving forward toward full production.
With this last push I’m hoping to bring in support from the wide-reaching network of folks who I know want to support this project. I know, because over the last several years, you’ve said things like, “I can’t wait for that!” or “When can I see it?!?”
As a cultural worker who bridges the worlds of grassroots activism and the arts, I’ve seen firsthand how art can inspire and mobilize people—amplifying and invigorating urgent movements for change. It is one of our most powerful base-building tools. In Toni Cade Bambara’s words, it makes the revolution irresistible.
Why Earth First!?
Earth First! has been doing the work for 40 years. Direct action tactics that have now become the norm in environmental campaigns, like those against the Keystone XL pipeline, DAPL, and Line 3 were developed and honed by Earth First!ers in campaigns that predated social media, digital cameras and viral videos. Many of the people leading direct action trainings today came up through Earth First!.
Earth First! was the first “green group” I personally encountered that emphasized Indigenous sovereignty and the direct relationship between environmental destruction and global capitalism. Building long-term, successful movements requires constant creativity and evolution, as well as continuity and commitment to preserving people’s history. This project will uplift a long-term movement that has had tremendous influence on the current environmental movement, and been a major force in pushing that movement to take strong, no-compromise stances.
Risks and Challenges
Making art is risky and challenging! I’m grateful to have spent the last two decades consistently making work that has challenged me and my community and that has been full of both creative and logistical risks. All that experience certainly doesn’t guarantee anything, but it means I have a lot of experience anticipating (and for the most part avoiding) disaster. Usually, things come out really well!