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What Is Ecodrama?

by Theresa J. May c.2007

What kind of theatre comes to mind when you read the term “ecodrama”? Political plays that advocate for environmentalism, or educational theatre about recycling? While these examples would fit, please let your imagination soar beyond them. 

Ecodrama stages the reciprocal connection between humans and the more-than-human world. It encompasses not only works that take environmental issues as their topic, hoping to raise consciousness or press for change, but also work that explores the relation of a “sense of place” to identity and community.

While many plays may be open to an ecological interpretation, others might be called “ecodrama,” Examples are diverse in form and topic: Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, in which the town’s waters have become polluted and a lone whistle blower clashes with powerful vested interests; Schenkkan’s The Kentucky Cycle, the epic tale of a land and its people – Indigenous, European, African – over seven generations; August Wilson’s Two Trains Running that bears witness to the loss of inner city sustainability; Moraga’s Heroes and Saints, about the embodied impact of industrial agriculture; Marie Clements’ Burning Vision, which documents the impact of Canadian uranium mining on first nations communities and land; Giljour’s Alligator Tales, a one-woman play by a Louisiana Cajun native about her relationship to her neighbors, the weather, the oil rigs off the coast and the alligators on her porch; Norman’s Secret Garden that consoles a child’s grief; Albee’s The Goat, or who is Sylvia, that confounds human species taboos; or Murray Schaffer’s Patria Project, in which the landscape becomes a player.

Earth Matters On Stage calls for an inclusive ecodrama, one that illuminates the complex connection between people and place, an ecodrama that makes us all more aware of our ecological identities as a people and communities; ecodrama that brings focus to an ecological concerns of a particular place, or that takes writer and audience to a deeper exploration of issue that may not be easily resolved.

Perhaps the important test is this: when we leave the theater are things around us more alive, do we listen better, care more, have a deeper or more complex sense of our own ecological identity?

For more about the reaches of “ecodrama” see the Related Articles.