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On the eve of her 70th birthday, Canadian writer Margaret Atwood set out on an international tour criss-crossing the British Isles and North America to celebrate the publication of her new dystopian novel, The Year of the Flood. Rather than mount a traditional tour to promote a book’s publication, Atwood conceived and executed something far more ambitious and revelatory—a theatrical version of her novel. Along the way she reinvented what a book tour could (and maybe should) be. But Atwood wasn't selling books as much as advocating an idea: how humanity must respond to the consequences of an environmentally compromised planet before her work of speculative fiction transforms into prophesy.
Atwood's odyssey is now captured in Ron Mann's new film, In The Wake of the Flood. Rendered as a fly-on-the-wall cinéma vérité, In The Wake of the Flood mixes new footage, archival materials and evocative animation in featuring Atwood on the road and at home as an aging but buoyant literary rock star spreading a message of warning and hope as she staged and participated in the novel production.
In each community she visited, Atwood joined volunteer performers in a loose-knit, grass roots production drawn from the text of her novel. With its mystical, Blakean overtones, Atwood’s theatrical dusplay acts as a neo-pagan ritual that seeks to shake the human race into an awareness of the fragile natural world and our vital connection to it. To bring her novel into a live setting, Atwood collaborated with Los Angeles composer Orville Stoeber to write a new style of devotional music influenced by the related genres of country ballads, gospel, jazz and folk. Each performance included a cast of local readers and singers taking the roles of different characters in key scenes from the novel. The events were primarily staged in cathedrals, adding a grand visual element to the proceedings and a layer of ceremonial gravitas.
From Edinburgh and London to New York City, Toronto and Vancouver, Atwood emerges as an earthy sentinel whose rare sensibility is always in the foreground: a life and art coalesced into a unity of medium and message.