6 ACUMEN • SPRING 2021 the story will change by the following week because other participants have been shaping the story’s direction. Flux Theatre Ensemble produces transformative theatre that explores and awakens the capacity for change. As an ensemble artist-driven company, its members believe that long-term collaboration and rigorous creative development can unite artists and audiences to build a creative home in New York. EARTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES UNDERSTANDING MEGATHRUST EARTHQUAKES On April 16, 2016, a historic magnitude 7.8 earthquake occurred offshore Ecuador causing extensive damage along the north central coast and leaving the city of Pedernales in ruins. Seismologist Anne Meltzer helped lead an international team of scientists immediately following the earthquake to organize a rapid response to monitor the aftershock sequence and the resulting data is providing insights into the structure of subsurface and the physical processes behind these events. Meltzer joined colleagues from the Instituo Geofisica at Escuela Politécnica Nacional in Quito to deploy 55 seismometers on land and 10 ocean-bottom seismometers above the rupture zone and adjacent areas to record aftershocks. The Pedernales earthquake ruptured a 60-mile by 25-mile segment of the subduction zone along the coast. Subduction zones are regions where tectonic plates collide and one plate moves under the other descending back into the interior of the Earth. When the interface between the plates breaks, these areas release considerable amounts of stored energy, producing the largest earthquakes on Earth. As a result, these megathrust earthquakes can cause significant loss of life and damage to property. “The data collected in the aftermath of large earthquakes tells you something about earthquake rupture processes and can assist in forecasting large aftershocks that can cause additional damage,” said Meltzer, Francis J. Trembley Chair and professor of earth and environmental Still in the early planning stages, he and his colleagues are developing scripts with an underlying concept that people can leave something on the tree or take something as the script develops. While the hotline is not truly live, as participants will not speak to a live operator, there can be dynamic qualities to where it evolves over time, he says. “It’s a live, dynamic interaction with the caller. It’s part choose-your-own story, part creative engagement and part secrets and tech,” Lowry says. Also envisioned are prompts to promote interconnectivity. If one wants to leave a message for a loved one, a recording can be left on the hotline, he adds. The message will not be delivered to the loved one, but participants can lend their voice to the experience. “If you want to just scream into the void, that’s fine. It’s about having the outlet available to do so,” he says. While some aspects of the hotline might be purely meditative, there also might be moments where callers receive triggers to take specific actions. “You might call in and get a prompt that says, ‘We’ve been trying to reach you. Please press three,’ and then there are opportunities to follow a pathway and engage with someone on the hotline, leaving virtual breadcrumbs for you to follow and piece together,” he says. Lowry adds that the ensemble is trying to develop a virtual world, akin to table games like Dungeons & Dragons, where participants interact with virtual characters, propelled forward by following an underlying story. Participants can call in one week to follow the story, but THEATRE A PHONE TREE On March 12, 2020, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that, due to COVID-19, all theatrical performances were canceled, effective immediately. For small off-off- Broadway companies like Flux Theatre Ensemble, engagements with audiences had to be reenvisioned. For scene designer and Flux creative partner Will Lowry, the shift in audience interactions presented new and interesting challenges. The ensemble had been developing a new play for two years, but with the closing of theatres, it became clear to Lowry and his partners that alternatives were needed with the end of the physical production. Shortly thereafter, the ensemble offered select scenes from the play online, with explanations from the artists about their creative process. “We were trying to find something that felt like interaction when we couldn’t have live theatre,” says Lowry, assistant professor of theatre. “Many of us made this big discovery, largely due to the chat function with Zoom, though we were geographically distant, there was still this sense of shared space and of liveness. By doing the scenes this way, we had this sense we were sharing the space with the audience. We were engaging in live theatre even if we were living in separate locations.” From these online engagements, Lowry notes, the ensemble uncovered a connection between live theatre and digital media, fostering an idea to create an old-fashioned hotline with a phone tree. BRIEFS NEIL WEBB / THEISPOT.COM