Bright eyes, big puppets and leaky pipes

  • Rosalie Bridge, 10, center, performs in a play written by artistic director Beth Fairservis, bottom right, with help from children in her Haydenville homeschooling group during “The World We Love — A Celebration of Interdependence” Saturday in front of First Churches in Northampton. DAN LITTLE

  • Anne Wilsey performs with a large dragon puppet representing a transition to clean energy during “The World We Love — A Celebration of Interdependence” event and performance Saturday in front of First Churches in Northampton. —DAN LITTLE

  • Kala Garrido, 12, left, and Olin Katz, 10, perform to the crowd gathered in front of First Churches on Saturday during a play written by Beth Fairservis with help from children in her Haydenville homeschooling group as part of “The World We Love — A Celebration of Interdependence” in Northampton. —DAN LITTLE

  • Performers put on a musical play written by artistic director Beth Fairservis, bottom left, with help from children in her Haydenville homeschooling group as part of “The World We Love — A Celebration of Interdependence” event Saturday in front of First Churches in Northampton. —DAN LITTLE

  • A crowd gathers in front of First Churches on Saturday as a play written by Beth Fairservis is performed with help from children in her Haydenville homeschooling group as part of “The World We Love — A Celebration of Interdependence” event in Northampton. —DAN LITTLE

  • People of all ages march to First Churches to celebrate sustainability and draw attention to gas leaks in the city during “The World We Love — A Celebration of Interdependence” event Saturday in Northampton. four groups of performers donned vivid handmade costumes coming from points north, south, east and west, to represent the four elements. —DAN LITTLE

  • People of all ages march to First Churches to celebrate sustainability and draw attention to gas leaks in the city during “The World We Love — A Celebration of Interdependence” event Saturday in Northampton. Four groups of performers donned vivid handmade costumes coming from points north, south, east and west, to represent the four elements. DAN LITTLE

  • People of all ages march to First Churches to celebrate sustainability and draw attention to gas leaks in the city during “The World We Love — A Celebration of Interdependence” event Saturday in Northampton. four groups of performers donned vivid handmade costumes coming from points north, south, east and west, to represent the four elements. —DAN LITTLE

  • Rosalie Bridge, 10, keeps an eye out for incoming parade marchers with a handmade telescope during “The World We Love — A Celebration of Interdependence” event Saturday in front of First Churches in Northampton. —DAN LITTLE

@StephMurr_Jour
Published: 7/2/2016 5:39:01 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Giant puppets, whimsical costumes and a full brass band. Main Street flurried with color and sound Saturday afternoon as some 100 people of all ages marched to First Churches to celebrate sustainability and draw attention to gas leaks in the city.

Beginning at 1 p.m., four groups of climate-minded performers donning vivid handmade costumes converged on the steps of First Churches, coming from points north, south, east and west, to represent the four elements. A performer dressed as a giant bear, a woman on stilts and a giant whale puppet provided facets of the avant garde display.

“The task is mighty and so are we,” the group sang as onlookers filled the sidewalk. “The tide is turning and so are we.”

The event, called “The World We Love — A Celebration of Interdependence” was a collaboration among neighborhood group 2DegreesatGreenNeighbors.Earth, Pioneer Valley Mothers Out Front and Climate Action NOW.

The group performed a musical play written by artistic director Beth Fairservis with help from children in her Haydenville homeschooling group. The play take aim at the fossil fuel industry, starring a giant dragon puppet that represented a transition to clean energy, and featured musical accompainment from the Expandable Brass Band.

Five children — Aiyanna Friedland-Kays, 6; Olin Katz, 10; Kala Garrido, 12; Arabella Haigh Wilsey, 10 and Rosalie Bridge, 10, drove the performance, passing a microphone and demanding a sustainable future.

Katz, Fairservis’s bright-eyed son, said thinking about the future of the earth makes him more nervous than performing in front of large crowds does.

“I’ve been performing my whole life so I don’t get nervous about it,” Olin said. “Kids’ futures are important to us … That’s why I (perform), to make the world a better place.”

After the play, the performers and protesters took to the streets to flag 20 of the 91 natural gas leaks they say are leaking methane in the city.

“We are going to start flagging methane gas leaks all over town. We really are going to be doing this,” said performer Ana Sobel, outfitted in long strips of red fabric. A group of about 20 people charged across the street to mark the underground leak.

Information about the 91 gas leaks in Northampton comes from Home Energy Efficiency Team, a Cambridge-based nonprofit that uses data submitted by utilities to map leaks across Massachusetts. There were 91 reported gas leaks in the city as of Dec. 31, 2015, the oldest dating to 1999, according to data taken from an annual report Columbia Gas of Massachusetts filed with the Department of Utilities.

Marty Nathan, of 2DegreesatGreenNeighbors.Earth has been part of a movement to identify and stop gas leaks since April. She said she was happy to see the performance raise awareness and give momentum to the environmental justice movement. “I think it’s marvelous,” said Nathan. “It’s really speaking to the moral and spiritual aspects of the struggle to save the bisophere.”

Representatives from Columbia Gas and Northampton city government have said the gas leaks are not dangerous, saying some are as small as a pin prick. But Nathan said through meetings and negotiations between the neighborhood group and the gas company, she knows the company has agreed internally that the leaks need to be stopped.

“They know it’s an issue. Everybody knows it’s an issue,” she said. “They are working to plug the biggest leaks.”

For artistic director Beth Fairservis, the event was a successful pairing of art and direct action.

“I’m ecstatic. We got people on the street to open their hearts with good music and an important message,” Fairservis said. “People are recognizing they can use their voices and be on the street to make change.”

Fairservis, 51, of Haydenville, said she began writing the play in January. The performance was made possible by a core group of children who rehearsed for weeks in Fariservis’s 35-foot yurt, she said.

Chloe Kendall, of Goshen, painted her face with shimmering turquoise paint to resemble scales and brought her eight-month-old son Shaman to watch the performance. “It’s cool and important that children are part of the staging,” Kendall said, balancing her baby on her hip. “It’s innocent, fun and lighthearted, but it’s important at the same time.”

According to Fairservis, the performers will pack their stilts and take their performance to Great Barrington on July 16 and then to Sandisfield at a later date to protest a pipeline planned for Otis State Forest. Fairservis said she also plans to perform the play annually in front of First Churches as part of what she calls “Interdependence Day.”




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