Canadian rap artist and award-winning playwright Baba Brinkman is coming to Vancouver for just two performances of his latest show, Rap Guide to Climate Chaos. Baba has written or co-written six hip-hop plays, several of which have toured the world and enjoyed successful runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and off-Broadway in New York. His Rap Guide to Evolution (2011) received a Scotsman Fringe First Award in Edinburgh, and was featured at the Seattle Science Festival opening for Stephen Hawking—a moment that Baba considers his greatest. He is also a recent recipient of the National Center for Science Education’s “Friend of Darwin Award” for his efforts to improve the public understanding of evolutionary biology.
Baba is also a former tree planter who personally planted more than one million trees between 1995 and 2009! We asked Baba to tell us a bit more about himself and his show, Rap Guide the Climate Chaos.
Tell us about your script. What’s the gist of the story?
The story is about a slightly naive but very inquisitive person seeking definitive answers on the most challenging questions about the climate and the future of life on earth. Along his journey, he meets a series of guides, from NASA’s chief climate scientist to the Pope, who share their views on what’s wrong and what needs to be done. The protagonist is a rapper, and a Canadian tree-hugger, so he relates the story in rhyme, as he knows best. By the end, he thinks he sees the root of the problem, and tries to recruit the audience as allies to join the struggle for a real solution.
Is the story based in a true event? If so, what did you need to do to reshape the story into the guise of a play?
The story is based on scientifically fact-checked true events, consisting of billions of individual decisions about how to get around, what to eat, how to live, and what machines to buy and use and how to power them.
What things do you want your performances to prompt people to think about?
In the show I put myself in the hot seat and confront my own carbon footprint and what I can (and can’t) do about it, and then I implicate the audience in that same process, creating a sense of responsibility for what happens next with climate change, both as individuals and as a collective. I hope I can prompt them to think not just about the scale of the problem but also about ways that we can be creative in overcoming the obstacles to action.
What are you most looking forward to about the performances?
Making people squirm, and then laugh, and then squirm again.
Why does Vancouver need this play now?
Vancouver has a green reputation and BC has a carbon tax, but it’s stalled and there are lots of loopholes causing emission levels to increase. I hope to shock people out of any smugness or complicity about the situation, especially since the atmosphere doesn’t respect borders.
What’s your personal philosophy ?
Try not to mistake your personal preferences for universal moral principles, or vice versa.