Earth Matters on Stage : Ecology and Environment in American Theater book cover
1st Edition

Earth Matters on Stage
Ecology and Environment in American Theater

ISBN 9780367464622
Published August 10, 2020 by Routledge
310 Pages

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Book Description

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.

Table of Contents


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


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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.