‘Mammoth’ play explores ideas of extinction, lost love through science

Jessica Shu

UT Theatre and Dance tackles “Mammoth” by Adam Burnett, an inventive paleo-fable following a team of scientists and hunters trying to resurrect the woolly mammoth.

The play’s subtitle —” A de-extinction love story” — hints at its nontraditional structure. Featuring a five-person cast, “Mammoth” combines whimsical scenes with ideas of extinction and lost love.

Khristian Mendez Aguirre, the director and a second-year Master of Fine Arts student, warns viewers not to expect a sequential plot.

“It’s surprising, and it won’t completely make sense,” Aguirre said. “That’s good because then people can make their own meaning from the play.”

Aguirre, who studied human ecology as an undergraduate student, was drawn to the play because of its relevance to climate change and the challenges of its production. For example, he had to learn how to use the laser cutter at the campus Fab Lab for some of the set pieces.

“There were a lot of interesting logistical and technical things to figure out. Like the huge mammoths, of course,” Aguirre said.

From the beginning, Aguirre knew he wanted to create a zero-waste set. With funding from UT Green Fee, the production team was able to make that happen.

“We’ve all had to be pretty creative,” Aguirre said. “We found that wax paper on a wooden frame lit from both sides looks just like ice.”

“Mammoth” was, in part, inspired by scientists’ current efforts to resurrect the woolly mammoth. Aguirre said it has a lot to say about scientific solutions and their potential ramifications.

“Part of this ‘de-extinction love story’ is about how humans have already killed mammoths once,” Aguirre said. “Bringing them back won’t change that. It could even happen again.”

The decision to use actual recordings of Arctic permafrost melting in the play’s sound design makes the experience more powerful, he added.

“Mammoth will make you feel the impact of science in a visceral way,” Aguirre said.

Aguirre said he hopes that students interested in science will come see the play.

“This is about current issues,” Aguirre said. “One of the animals in the play was declared extinct last month.”

“Mammoth” will show in the Black Box Theatre from Friday to Monday.