Human Nature: Comedy of the Wild

Human Nature

Human Nature has been producing theater—mostly comedy and musical comedy—about crucial environmental and social issues since 1979. Their shows tend to be bawdy, tragi-comic, and absolutely serious all at once. They have moved, delighted, and pissed off audiences from South Africa to Istanbul to New York City to Briceland, CA.

The company’s initial production was its namesake, Human Nature, a four-part dance theater musical piece that examined issues of humans’ relationship to the wild with great grace and exoticism. (A Bay Area dance critic referred to the potent spirit of the show as “Mozart With Fangs.”) The company of 12 performers and five original and outstanding musicians, many drawn from Southern Humboldt’s tireless Feet First Dancers, took the show on the road, performing throughout California.

Human Nature’s newest play, Crow-Bros, preformed by local youth.
photo courtesy Human Nature

The next show, Queen Salmon, was a musical comedy based on efforts in ours and other rural communities in salmon and timber country to restore the health of our damaged watersheds and especially of our once great King Salmon runs. The show, too, was taken on the road, this time not only in California but also throughout the Pacific Northwest. It played in some of the grand theaters of the region as well as in Grange Halls and community centers in the little logging and fishing towns where the issues the show addressed were, like in ours, playing out against a backdrop of intense polarization and social conflict. But it did its work, the artists’ mission: helping communities to overcome their differences and to heal.

Human Nature’s more recent production was inspired during a world-wide tour of a show about wolves in the wild when the company was brought into close touch with Inuit people. It led onto the subject of climate change which the Inuit, in their far Arctic home, had been confronting well ahead of the rest of the world’s people. This first approach to climate comedy, about which the company struggled urgently to find humor, was the compelling force behind Human Nature’s What’s Funny About Climate Change? and a subsequent run of comic shows on what should have been the least funny subject on stage anywhere.

The company’s next and most recent show takes on the second-least funny subject. The Perils of Plastic turned out to be a young people’s challenge. Modeled after the old Hardy Boys (teenage detective stories)—except in this case, the erstwhile teenage detectives are totemic crows—the show chronicles the soon-to-be famous Crow-Bros, who are locked in a struggle for dominance over the countryside with the last great villain and his latest perversions of the coal, oil, and gas industries, the ever-cruel Plastico the Fantastico. The show asks, “Can the Crow-Bros prevail over Plastico’s devious effort to infiltrate and replace every pore of real nature with—you guessed it—plastic?”

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