Post-Platform Reflection: That Uppity Theatre Company’s “Playhouse Emissions: Climate Change Theatre”

Climate change is an urgent problem, yet so many people remain in denial or have crossed over into despair—and the result of both of these emotional states is inaction. I’ve read, heard, and seen a lot of presentations on climate change, and even though I’m an avid environmentalist, frankly I find it hard sometimes to get up the energy to go to yet another climate change event—Will I learn anything new? Will this change anything, or will I just feel more depressed afterward?

So I was excited last fall when the Ethical Society of St. Louis had the opportunity to host a climate change theatre and action evening, part of a coordinated international event to use the power of creative performance to educate and motivate people in a different way. And I was thrilled when That Uppity Theatre Company and Ashleyliane Dance Company agreed to do a slightly shorter version of that evening as a special Arts Festival Sunday Platform.

Unfortunately if you weren’t there in person, you missed two powerful dance pieces, but you can still experience the short plays through the podcast. I think many of us can identify with the characters, from the activist with the bumper crop of bumper stickers, to the gardener freaking out over the changes he sees in his own backyard, to the woman trying to figure out how to balance desire for a simple treat with the environmental impact of all our consumer choices. As a fan of science fiction, I found the futuristic plays to be particularly powerful, especially the little girl who could not even imagine having enough water to immerse her whole body in—That could be the real future of many places if global warming is allowed to continue.

But the play that left me with the most urgent questions is the final one, in which our future ancestors view the last surviving Homo Sapiens in a zoo or reserve. They find us cutely primitive and reassure us that they understand we did the best we could. I found that forgiveness kind, but false, at least so far. I wish we were currently doing the best we can. Instead, most of us are falling far short of making real efforts to cut our energy consumption and to insist that companies and governments make the necessary changes to reverse climate change. Hopefully, science and politics will be joined by more creative responses such as climate change theatre to help move more people on a deeper level, so that one day our ancestors, whether Homo Sapiens or something new, can truly say we did our best.