Princeton University’s High Meadows Environmental Institute and Lewis Center for the Arts and The Civilians theater company announce The Next Forever inaugural artist commissions
Kareem Fahmy and AriDy Nox will participate in one-year residencies at Princeton to develop their commissioned pieces exploring how dynamic storytelling can engage vital environmental subjects
Princeton University’s High Meadows Environmental Institute and Lewis Center for the Arts and The Civilians, a New York City-based theater company, announce the two inaugural artists of their new collaboration, The Next Forever, Kareem Fahmy and AriDy Nox. The Next Forever is a novel partnership that seeks to create new stories for a changing planet, exploring how dynamic storytelling can engage vital environmental subjects and provide the vision and inspiration society needs to navigate the challenges of our planet’s future — the “next forever.” The two artists will spend time on the Princeton University campus as guest artists, engage with faculty and students, and participate in an ongoing series of public events and performances over the course of a year-long residency and two-year commissioning agreement.
“What stories can we tell to find our way out of the planetary crisis we’re in?” This is the urgent question that Princeton University and The Civilians are putting to students, scientists, and theater-makers vis-à-vis The Next Forever. The crisis is environmental, to be sure – climate change, biodiversity loss, ecological collapse, food insecurity – but also a crisis of imagination.
The Next Forever provides forward-thinking artists unparalleled access to a cross-disciplinary range of knowledge and ideas—of scientists, conservation psychologists, historians, and policy and communications experts, among others. The Next Forever supports artists as they pursue rigorous inquiry into their subject matter alongside some of Princeton’s greatest thinkers. The initiative funds a series of commissions of theatrical work that offer new visions for how humanity relates to the world around it. Next Forever artists have the opportunity to engage with Princeton faculty working in relevant fields over the academic year of their residency.
Kareem Fahmy is a Canadian-born playwright and director of Egyptian descent. His plays, including American Fast, winner of the Woodward/Newman Award; A Distinct Society, a National Showcase of New Plays finalist; and Dodi & Diana, an O’Neill National Playwrights Conference finalist, have been seen at theaters across the U.S. and Canada. He has received prior commissions from Ensemble Studio Theatre/Sloan, Colt Coeur, and Artists Repertory Theatre. Fahmy’s fellowships have included MacDowell, Yaddo, Sundance, Stratford Festival, and others. He founded the Middle Eastern American Writers Lab and created the BIPOC Director Database. Fahmy was named a Rising Leader of Color by the Theatre Communications Group and earned an M.F.A. in theater directing from Columbia University.
During his residency, Fahmy will develop his new play, Riparian Rights, which tells the story of how a new Nile River dam has brought Egypt and Ethiopia to a geopolitical breaking point. Examining how humanity’s relentless harnessing of natural resources to improve our lives has become a double-edged sword in times of climate catastrophe, the play asks: What happens when one country’s progress leads to another country’s decline?
AriDy Nox is a multi-disciplinary, Black femme storyteller focused on forward-thinking creative works, including the historical reimagining of the life of Sally Hemmings, Black Girl in Paris (2020); the ancestral reckoning play, A Walless Church (2019); the Afrofuturist ecopocalypse musical The Anomaly (2019); and the generational, magical realism heptology, The Daughthers of Omilade (2020), among others. Nox creates work out of the strong belief that creating a liberated future requires a radical imagination. Their tales are offerings intended to function as small parts of an ancient, expansive, awe-inspiring tradition of world-shaping created by Black femmes and with Black femmes at the center.
During their residency, Nox will develop their new work, Why Y’all Hate Earth So Bad, an interactive reverse-ancestral play that centers a group of young descendants who bootleg the latest in virtual-reality technology to perform a jerry-rigged seance of their respective ancestors, all in the hopes of asking one burning question: Why are ya’ll making Earth so damn unlivable?
“The climate crisis is the most significant issue facing us all, and is a particular burden on young people,” said Jane Cox, director of Princeton’s Program in Theater and Music Theater. “The Lewis Center for the Arts is excited to partner with the High Meadows Environmental Institute and The Civilians theater company, as well as visiting artists and students, to search for meaningful creative narratives and imagine speculative futures. The earth needs all of us, and we hope that through classes and commissions, art-making can partner with science in pursuit of a brighter future.”
“We are delighted to have launched The Next Forever initiative in partnership with the Lewis Center and The Civilians and are excited to engage with Kareem Fahmy and AriDy Nox as the project’s inaugural guest artists,” said Gabriel Vecchi, director of the High Meadows Environmental Institute. “We fully anticipate that the residencies will be experienced as mutually beneficial experiences: faculty and students will gain unique insight into the creative practices of seasoned practitioners while the artists will have the advantage of engaging with subject area experts in fields related to the underlying themes of their developing works.”
A new undergraduate course to be offered at Princeton in the spring semester parallels the work of the commissioned artists. Cross-listed between the Program in Theater and Music Theater and the Program in Environmental Studies, “Stories for a Changing Planet” will be taught by The Civilians’ Founding Artistic Director Steve Cosson and theater director and arts-based researcher Khristián Méndez Aguirre. The course, which will be open to undergraduates from all disciplines, will explore how dramatic storytelling shapes responses to environmental issues, blending documentary-based theater and ecodramaturgical approaches to create narratives that stage environmental injustice.
“The planetary crisis is environmental, to be sure, but it’s also a crisis of imagination,” said Cosson. “The Next Forever brings together bright minds from across disciplines to help equip the movement for environmental action. Through our partnership with HMEI, the Lewis Center, and our first two commissioned artists, we’re championing the dynamic storytelling that we need to navigate our planet’s future.”
The Next Forever builds on a partnership between The Civilians and Princeton University that began in 2009 with the development of The Great Immensity, one of the first American plays to address climate change. Prior to its 2012 world premiere at Kansas City Repertory Theatre and New York premiere at The Public Theater, The Great Immensity was developed in collaboration with High Meadows Environmental Institute (formerly Princeton Environmental Institute) over two years. The play also received a work-in-progress showing in a collaboration between the Lewis Center’s Princeton Atelier and the Princeton Environmental Institute in 2010 at the Berlind Theatre at the McCarter Theatre Center at Princeton University. The cast album was released in 2022.
About High Meadows Environmental Institute
High Meadows Environmental Institute (HMEI) – the interdisciplinary center of environmental research, education, and outreach at Princeton University – advances understanding of the Earth as a complex system influenced by human activities and informs solutions to local and global challenges by conducting groundbreaking research across disciplines and preparing future leaders in diverse fields to impact a world increasingly shaped by climate change. More than 140 faculty, representing 30 academic disciplines, are affiliated with HMEI and contribute to the Institute’s environmental research and teaching activities.
About the Lewis Center for the Arts
The Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University believes that art arises out of questions. Its classes and minors in creative writing, dance, theater and music theater, and visual arts, and in the interdisciplinary Princeton Atelier, operate on the principle that rigorous artistic practice is a form of research, innovation, discovery, and intervention. Like scholarship of any kind, rigorous artistic practice is a way of interrogating that which is accepted or understood in an attempt to break into the territory of the unknown or under-explored.
About The Civilians
Founded in 2001, The Civilians is a New York City company that creates exuberant “investigative theater” on vital social and political questions. It develops shows based on original interviews and research and nurtures the work of leading playwrights and composers. Celebrated productions include The Great Immensity (a globe-crossing adventure on the climate crisis), In the Footprint (multiple top-10 lists play about urban development), and Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play (fourth-best play of the past 25 years according to The New York Times). The company originated Lucas Hnath’s Dana H., recently on Broadway and included in Top 10 of 2021 lists by The New York Times and Time magazine and was the creative home of composer Michael Friedman from 2001 until his passing in 2017. The company is currently Artist-in-Residence at WNYC’s The Greene Space. Previously, it was in residence at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Top critics have called The Civilians “endlessly inventive,” and “groundbreaking.” Led by Founding Artistic Director Steve Cosson, The Civilians continue to reinvent theater for a world on the edge.