An illuminating work of documentary theater, The Tar Sands Songbook asks us to reconsider our unseen relationships with oil. Creator Tanya Kalmanovitch knows these relationships all too well. Born in Fort McMurray, Canada, near the site of the Athabasca Oil Sands, the world’s largest bitumen reservoir, she made her decision to become a musician as a teenager because “it had nothing to do with oil.” Fort McMurray has since become a flashpoint of international clashes over energy, the environment, and the economy. Kalmanovitch's polyphonic piece weaves together her virtuosic storytelling with an original, improvised score. The words of Indigenous activists, engineers, heavy equipment operators, elders, oil patch workers, scientists, and those of her own family fuel discussions of our past and the powerful forces that shape our future.
Tanya Kalmanovitch, writer/performer
Andrew Boundreau, piano
About TAR SANDS SONGBOOK
TAR SANDS SONGBOOK is a solo performance that combines personal storytelling, field recordings, images and live music to investigate our personal relationships to oil and climate emergency. I named this project for the notorious oil mining operation near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada that shot to international attention as the source of “dirty oil” to be carried into the US by the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. I was born in Fort McMurray, just three years after they opened the world's first oil mine. At 17, I left Alberta for NYC, pursuing my dream of becoming a musician because “music had nothing to do with oil”. In the 1990s, rapid expansion of mining operations turned my hometown into “the largest — and most destructive — industrial project in human history.” When Superstorm Sandy devastated my NYC neighbourhood, I witnessed one of the greatest climate-related storms in history. I grew up enmeshed in one of the greatest drivers of climate change, and now I was living in its impacts. TAR SANDS SONGBOOK is my account of my personal reckoning with these events. I designed this piece to be performed in living rooms and small theaters along the pipeline routes that carry Alberta crude into global markets — placing audiences at the epicenter of a disaster they might never see, but that has everything to do with how they live today. — Tanya Kalmanovitch