Combining a desire to create during the ever-dwindling opportunities for theatre artists, stay connected to the communities it serves and stave off pandemic fatigue, Neworld Theatre’s artistic director Chelsea Haberlin turned to one of the leading exponents of the 1960’s pop art movement for inspiration.
The result is Remember November: A Time Capsule Project, a month-long project in which participants place an object of meaning each day into a box. The boxes will then remain sealed until they are re-opened in 2025.
“I read an article about how if you had a project to do, it really helps your mental health, and that resonated with me,” explains Haberlin. “It talked about how the chemicals in our brain that allowed us to keep going for the first part of the pandemic were wearing off and that we needed to find ways of coping.”
At around the same time, Haberlin found herself moved after hearing about Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules, the 610 cardboard boxes the artist filled with items from his daily life for nearly twenty years.
“Not digital but tangible physical things that have meaning and value during this weird time,” she continues. “And then I thought of people coming together in five years to share stories of this time through these objects.”
After sending out a call for participants, the response was immediate, surpassing Haberlin’s initial expectations.
“I thought maybe ten people would come forward, but we ended up with over 50 people, so that was pretty cool,” she says.
Eventually settling on 24 official participants, they are a mix of individuals and families ranging in age from three to seventy.
“There are a grown daughter and her mother who recently lost their father and husband and wanted a way to remember both him and this transitional moment for themselves,” says Haberlin.
Others include a mother and her two young children who use the project to talk about something every day at dinner and a mother of an actor who has worked with Neworld on other projects looking for her a personal connection to the group.
Given the response from those Haberlin reached out to as official participants, she decided to open up the project providing anyone who wanted to participate by inviting them to play along at home.
As with all participants, word prompts such as grief, love, fun, and isolation are posted each day on the Neworld website and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using the tags #neworldnovember and #neworldtheatre. They are words Haberlin says she found coming up in conversations over the past few months.
“If you’re looking for inspiration, you can look at the words, but people can do whatever they want,” says Haberlin.
Despite November almost coming to a close, Haberlin also says it is not too late to participate.
“You can start it now,” she says. “You could do it for 30 days from now or start in December or start now and backtrack the month. We invite people to participate in any way you want.”
As for how things will conclude in five years, Haberlin is toying with some ideas, although she has been careful not to pressure the project to be more than it is right now.
“I love the idea of the 24 people being involved in a show together about this or creating an interactive experience or installation,” she says. “I am curious to see when we come together what is evoked for us and what this might become.”
As for the nagging question about whether people actually want to remember this November, Haberlin has been thinking about that a lot, eventually realizing that the tiny meaningful things that happen every day may disappear.
“They may not always be positive, but they are part of our life,” she says. “We may not want to remember the news, but we might want to remember something that happened with our child, a conversation that we had with a friend, a great show that we were watching, or the bread we made. These are things that feel like a waste to lose in a wash of grief.”
For more information on Neworld Theatre’s Remember November: A Time Capsule Project or get started on your own visit time capsule, visit neworldtheatre.com.