Solar energy play to brighten Earth Week at CMN

Show way to use the arts to inform about science
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Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Lloyd Frieson, playing Sam Paqneo, makes an impassioned plea to move funding to his oil business instead of solar energy as Ann Walenski listens in “CMN’s Solar Energy Institute Goes to Washington.”

Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski The discussion in a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing gets heated in “CMN’s Solar Energy Institute Goes to Washington.” Director Ryan Winn, left, watches as, from left, Sabrina Hemken, Ann Walenski and Lloyd Frieson rehearse the show Thursday afternoon.

The College of Menominee Nation is holding a number of activities next week in recognition of Earth Week, but the theatrical production could require audience members to bring sunblock.

“CMN’s Solar Energy Institute Goes to Washington,” a student-crafted play, will be performed on the Keshena campus Thursday to not only inform people about solar energy concepts in general but also to showcase the research conducted by the college in that field.

Ryan Winn, who teaches English, theater and humanities at the college, said he was approached by CMN’s Sustainable Development Institute about coming up with a performance piece involving an earth-friendly aspect to be part of the school’s weeklong celebration.

“Solar Energy Institute,” which had been a theater performance done by CMN when students attended the American Indian Higher Education Consortium student conference, seemed like the perfect piece, he said.

The play is a farce where a CMN representative is summoned before a U.S. Senate subcommittee populated by hostile and clueless bureaucrats questioning the college’s work in using solar panels for energy research. One senator refers to the idea as “Yankee liberal solar energy hogwash” during the course of the hearing, while another fears his oil business could suffer if the college gets national funding for its solar energy work.

“The one sane person in the script is a character based on a CMN student, which is Travis Spice,” Winn said. “The idea is to make the presentation of research more engaging to the community and that the only sane way forward is to move away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy.”

Lloyd Frieson, one of the writers and actors for the play, said creating the script was a “lively” experience.

“We did a lot of research on solar energy,” Frieson said.

Besides the AIHEC conference, the play has previously been performed for the Menominee Youth Empowerment program, but this will be the first time it has been performed for the general public, according to Winn.

“This is a chance for us to share it with the larger community,” he said. “Using theater to talk about renewable energy but not just in passing; the science behind it is awesome.”

The play will also solicit audience participation, so those in attendance could become part of the show.

Prior to the start of the play, there will be some competitive performance pieces from the AIHEC conference to entertain the public. The performance begins at 12:30 p.m. in Room 126 of Shirley Daly Hall.

AT A GLANCE

WHAT: “CMN’s Solar Energy Institute Goes to Washington”

WHEN: 12:30 p.m. Thursday

WHERE: Room 126, Shirley Daly Hall, College of Menominee Nation, N172 State Highway 47-55, Keshena

ADMISSION: Free