Sila – Lighting & Projection Design by Megan M. Reilly
Chantal Bilodeau’s Sila, produced February 2014 at the University of New Hampshire, explored the issue of climate change from the perspectives of several different inhabitants of Nunavut: a climate scientist, an Inuit family, Canadian Coast Guard officers, and two polar bears. Nunavut is a land subject to constant change, and the every day lives of those who live there have been deeply affected by the warming temperatures and melting glaciers. The play explored the complexity of the issue – the problem of climate change, in places where its effects are felt first and foremost, is not easy to solve when native peoples’ traditions, animals’ food sources, territorial disputes between nations and environmental science are all taken into account.
We strove with the design of this show to portray the Arctic environment as the Inuit see it: alive, warm, and full of color. The lighting design reflected the sun at different points of the day as well as a storm with which the Coast Guard officers dealt (and which drops the scientist Jean to the bottom of the ocean for a meeting with the goddess Nuliajuk). In my research I examined the colors of the Arctic and the many ways the sun and moonlight reflected off the ice to produce landscapes of stunning beauty. We also wanted to depict a clear sense of movement -‐ breath (sila, in Inuktitut) -‐ throughout the piece and slow shifts in lighting as well as moving reflections of water helped communicate this.
The projection design included original handmade animations inspired by Inuit stories as well as depictions of the night sky and the beautiful weather event known as the Northern Lights. Projections were mapped to borders, walls, and icebergs, which broke apart and drifted away during the show. Text was animated to move in and out with the wind. One piece of animation showed a mother’s grief as she dreamed of flying away with her son, an Inuit teenager who committed suicide due partially to the cultural identity crisis faced by the need for people to adapt their traditional lives and hunting practices to a changing environment.
Sila and its design were a beautiful example of life at a far corner of the world, where the environmental conditions are bringing massive, profound changes for everyone.