CMU School of Drama

Thursday, September 22, 2016

How Theatre Renewed My Perspective on Climate Change

HowlRound: Last February, I had the wonderful opportunity to perform in the new play Forward by Chantal Bilodeau at Kansas State University. Going into auditions for the production, I knew they play’s message was, at its core, about climate change. I’ll go ahead and admit now that, at the time, I was more excited for the opportunity to be doing a new play than I was to be performing a show about climate change as all my life, save for one special day in the eighth grade, I’d never really had my own, solid opinion on that subject. However, working on this play, the second in the Arctic Cycle series, completely renewed my perspective.


Rebecca Meckler said...

It’s wonderful that theater inspired Bilodeau to make a significant change and help save the planet. I always have a problem when people blatantly choose to ignore facts. I think a lot of people mistake freedom of speech and thought for being able to “choose” facts. Facts are suppose to be infallible and although, evidence can be tainted, global warming is a proven fact. Therefore, people can’t get angry when kids are taught facts in school, especially in science. Kids need to know what the scientific community accepts as facts in order to be educated adults. Democracy is based on the idea that people can vote because they are educated and can make decisions, but when we don’t give people all the information, they can’t make the informed decision. Therefore, democracy breaks down. We need to inform everyone and allow children to get facts and opinions that differ from their families regardless of what people's personal opinions are. This allows the kids to grow into informed adults and make decisions based on what they think is right, not what they are told.

Rachel said...

Like the author of this article, I went to high school in an exceptionally conservative part of the country, though I was very lucky to have both a fairly liberal parent and a conservative parent who also adored science. I witnessed the impact of regional politics on the education my peers and I received on a daily basis. I had an AP Biology teacher who refused to teach evolution. We never talked about climate change in a classroom setting. Most of my peers felt climate change was either a hoax or at most, “no big deal.” Teachers who said things like, “global warming is just a story tree-huggers are telling to push their agenda” only reinforced their opinions.

It’s hard not to see that kind of purposeful blindness, that fundamental intransigence, and not feel like it’s an impossible mountain to climb. But the arts exist to shift people. I have to believe that we can, story by story (or experience by experience if you’re not into narratives) get up that mountain by reaching out to people like the author… people who are effectively neutral and inactive that can be sparked toward activism. I have a feeling that as climate change accelerates, there will be more and more people who need their stories told or their experiences shared.

Jasmine Lesane said...

This is good to read. There’s so much shit going on in this world and even though art is supposed be this wonderful outlet for expression you start to fee kind of disconnected if you do it enough, disconnected from the world. To be clear I don’t mean uninformed, all of the professors preach about how good artists have to have to be informed about the world around them, but I just mean that you feel like your on your own little art island. This is refreshing. Though this is someone who is active in theatre, it is nice to know that art can still change minds. That it is not simply decorative, that is really can promote change. I’m not familiar with Forward, but I remember during climate change week last year when we read a bunch of plays concerning climate change, and it was really inspiring. It made it less of a concept, and more about a terrifying thing that will ruin lives.
Go art!

Angel Zhou said...

This article touches on so much more than just a changed belief in climate change. Through his childhood anecdote, Sterling Oliver brings to light the ways in which scientifically-invalid beliefs cascade through the generations. And, these beliefs are largely wrong, and I can say this with the support of the quote Oliver mentions from Neil deGrasse Tyson: “The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.” The problem with our society is that there are people in certain communities who take incorrect beliefs and project them onto their kids. It is because of this that their kids in turn grow up believing the same wrong statements and distribute them to their communities and their children. If we let kids be kids and allowed them to grow up with scientific truths rather than lies, perhaps we would have a better times being environmentally-friendly and morally upright.

I have never seen nor read the play Forward, but I can only imagine the strength of its message due to the impact it had on Oliver's beliefs. It is also inspiring to read about the ways that he is speaking out about climate change and influencing his parents to believe as well. I hope that, with a farther-reaching education system and/or more productions of Forwards, we as an American society can continue to combat combat change and mis-education.

Emily Lawrence said...

Climate change and our environment has increasingly become a hot button issue to talk about, so I am glad a show is touching on it. My favorite shows are the ones that touch on issues that we are facing today, because it will open societies mind up one way or another. I didn’t know what Forward was about, so if I were to see this show I would be walking in blindly, as would many other people I assume. This would be good for people who do not believe in climate change and how it is affecting our environment, because if someone is incredibly passionate about something they tend to close their ears to anything else. This sounds awful, but they are now forced to sit there, unless they are rude and walk out, and watch another viewpoint being played out on the stage in front of them. It is important to address the main issues in society, because it forces people to talk about them and accept them as something that truly needs change.