1st Edition

Earth Matters on Stage Ecology and Environment in American Theater

By Theresa J. May Copyright 2021
    310 Pages
    by Routledge

    310 Pages
    by Routledge

    Earth Matters on Stage: Ecology and Environment in American Theater tells the story of how American theater has shaped popular understandings of the environment throughout the twentieth century as it argues for theater’s potential power in the age of climate change. Using cultural and environmental history, seven chapters interrogate key moments in American theater and American environmentalism over the course of the twentieth century in the United States. It focuses, in particular, on how drama has represented environmental injustice and how inequality has become part of the American environmental landscape.

    As the first book-length ecocritical study of American theater, Earth Matters examines both familiar dramas and lesser-known grassroots plays in an effort to show that theater can be a powerful force for social change from frontier drama of the late nineteenth century to the eco-theater movement. This book argues that theater has always and already been part of the history of environmental ideas and action in the United States.

    Earth Matters also maps the rise of an ecocritical thought and eco-theater practice – what the author calls ecodramaturgy – showing how theater has informed environmental perceptions and policies. Through key plays and productions, it identifies strategies for artists who want their work to contribute to cultural transformation in the face of climate change.


    Preface From Ecotheatre to Ecodramaturgy

    Introduction Where Has Theater been while the World’s been Falling Apart?

    Chapter 1 Stories that Kill ~

    The Frontier as Ecological Ethos in Augustin Daly’s Horizon

    and William F.Cody’s Wild West: The Drama of Civilization

    Chapter 2 Sabine Wilderness ~

    David Belasco’s The Girl of the Golden West

    and William Vaughn Moody’s The Great Divide

    Chapter 3 Dynamos, Dust and Discontent ~

    Eugene O’Neal’s Dynamo, and the Federal Theatre Project’s Living

    Chapter 4 We Know We Belong to the Land ~

    Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

    Chapter 5 (Re)Claiming Home ~

    Lorraine Hansberry’s Raisin in the Sun; Luis Valdez’ Bernabé;

    Sam Shepard’s Buried Child

    Chapter 6 Stories in the Land / Legacies in the Body ~

    Robert Schenkkan’s The Kentucky Cycle; Cherríe Moraga’s Heroes and Saints;

    Anne Galjour’s Alligator Tales

    Chapter 7 Kinship, Community and Climate Change ~

    Marie Clements’ Burning Vision and Chantal Bilodeau’s Sila

    Epilogue Theater as a Site of Civic Generosity



    Theresa J. May is the author of Salmon Is Everything: Community-based Theatre in the Klamath Watershed , the co-editor of Readings in Performance and Ecology , the co-author of Greening Up Our Houses , and the co-founder and artistic director of the EMOS Ecodrama Playwrights Festival. She is an associate professor of theater at the University of Oregon.

    'Every passionate page of this book and each of its illuminating readings of the ecotheatrical American canon that it unearths, critiques, and celebrates, are deeply rooted in Theresa May’s fierce loyalty to – and decades-long leadership of – the American eco-theater movement. Her firm grasp of the vital connection between story-telling and policy making, alongside her inspiring conviction that the theatrical imagination is an ecological force, makes her exposition of "eco-dramaturgy" as practically valuable as it is theoretically rigorous. Equally importantly, the book’s historical range makes it a rare contribution to the urgent task of reckoning with the culturally embedded, deep-structural causes of the climate crisis. It is hard to imagine a more timely or a more ground-healing work in our field today.'

    Una Chaudhuri, New York University