Pushing Boundaries: Using Theater to Communicate Climate Change, One Child at a Time

CU Boulder Today
June 2018

Beth Osnes likes to have fun. When she created Shine, a musical performance about how energy, climate and humans are interrelated, she did what came naturally and made it joyful.

Set against a hand-drawn backdrop representing 300 million years of earth’s geologic history, youngsters dressed in colorful costumes symbolizing plants and insects sing and gambol around the stage.

Under the direction of Osnes, associate professor in the Department of Theatre & Dance, youth from local communities are performers in the humorous and dynamic story.

“I really like having fun,” she said. “We used artistic, creative, participatory activities to tell the story of energy and what actions we can take to get from the old story of fossil fuels to the new story of our cities resilience.”

Using theater as a platform for change, Osnes created an artistic project she hopes will inspire climate action. And she did it in a fun way.

“It’s good for youth to have a voice and to start learning these tools to become effective climate communicators,” said Osnes, who also teaches in environmental studies at CU Boulder. “What does it do for us to hear these messages from youth is what I’m super interested in.”

Shine is divided into two acts.

The first act is scripted, composed and choreographed to show how use of fossil fuel affects our climate. It begins with humanity’s transition from living in balance with nature to the excessive use of fossil fuels. It ends with Foss (fossil fuels) looking up at his older sister, the sun, and asking, “What now?”

The second act is authored by local youths. From the results of fossil fuels’ actions, participants are invited to create a new story for their city, one based on local solutions to the damaging environmental impact that threatens their city’s resilience.

The goal is to use performance as an entertaining way for youth to contribute to their community’s future. Shine has been performed in numerous cities, from Boulder and Chicago to London and Malope, South Africa. Read more …

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