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Greening the Theater: Taking Ecocriticism from Page to Stage

By Cymbeline Anthropocene on Jan 09, 2020 at 08:38 PM in Articles of Interest

Author: Theresa J. May, Humboldt State University

Ecological victory will require a transvaluation so profound as to be nearly unimaginable at present. And in this the arts and humanities— including the theater—must play a role. (25)
—Una Chaudhuri, “There Must Be a Lot of Fish in That Lake”

In the past three decades ecology has lit a greening fire across disciplines, from environmental history to environmental management, from ecofeminism to green economics. Greening artistic values have spawned land-art, site-specific dance, nature writing, and music with whales.

This sea change has renewed both the praxis and theory of literature, visual arts, music and dance. Yet, while literary scholarship has developed diverse discourses in ecocriticism, theater artists and scholars appear to be oblivious. In a 1994 issue of Theater, Erika Munk reported that “our playwrights’ silence on the environment as a political issue and our critics’ neglect of the ecological implications of theatrical form are rather astonishing” (5).

In the decade since Munk and guest editor Una Chaudhuri laid the gauntlet down, response has been thin. What accounts for theater’s absence from ecocritical discourse, indeed from the environmental movement? In part, tradition. Today’s burgeoning ecological art and writing grows out of two centuries of nature writing and landscape painting. Likewise, ecocrititicism in literary studies had its genesis in the plethora of analyses of Walden Pond. Perhaps American drama has no Gary Snyder, no Terry Tempest Williams, because it had no Henry David Thoreau. 

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Mar 14, 2024 Arrow1 Down Reply

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