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Using Theater to Explore Issues Related to Climate Change

Environmental Studies Program at Tufts University

Thursday, April 10, 2014 from 12:00 PM to 1:15 PM (EDT)

Using Theater to Explore Issues Related to Climate Chan...

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In this interactive workshop, participants will brainstorm what they know - and feel - about pressing problems related to climate change, generate provocative questions, and explore their questions through a simple collaborative playwriting exercise.  Participants will also get some background information on the world-premiere of SILA, by Chantal Bilodeau, about the intersection of culture, class and climate change in the Canadian Arctic.  SILA will have a work-in-progress reading at Tufts on Monday, February 10, and its world premiere at Central Square Theater in Cambridge April 24 - May 25 (www.centralsquaretheater.org). The workshop will be led by Downing Cless, Associate Professor of Drama (with longtime involvement in eco-theater) and Debra Wise, Artistic Director of Underground Railway Theater and Co-Director of Catalyst Collaborative@MIT, an ongoing science theater project.


Debra Wise is Artistic Director of Underground Railway Theater (URT), which was founded in Oberlin, Ohio and toured nationally and internationally for 30 years before becoming a theater-in-residence at Central Square Theater. Wise has helped create over 30 new works as performer, playwright, director and/or dramaturge. She is also Co-Director of the Catalyst Collaborative@MIT, an ongoing partnership with MIT which brings scientists and artists together to create and present works of science theater. With CC@MIT, Wise has overseen and appeared in productions of The Life of Galileo, Breaking the Code (about Alan Turing), Distracted (about the prevalence of ADHD and our media-saturated culture), From Orchids to Octopi – an evolutionary love story, Remembering H.M. (about the science of memory), and Einstein’s Dreams. She has presented about CC@MIT at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the 2012 conference of the American Association of Physical Sciences, and several national conferences about science and performing arts. On Oct. 2012, Ms. Wise was a featured presenter at a special meeting of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Board, convened to discuss how to encourage authentic creative activity at the intersection of art and science. Other science theater work has included the writing and directing of Aging Puzzle for the Boston Museum of Science (2001-2), and helping in the development of InTOXICating – an EcoCabaret (directed by Downing Cless and Wes Sanders), which toured nationally (1994-99) and received an EPA citation for excellence. Wise is on the faculty of Project Zero Summer Institute, Harvard Graduate School of Education; led in 2007-8 a Theater and Active Citizenship residency at Tufts University; has taught acting at MIT; and co-taught an MIT course, Making Theater about Science. She has performed with other companies in Boston and NYC (including the Public Theatre, in Julie Taymor’s Haggadah), has received a Boston Globe citation for Best Solo Performance, and has three times been nominated in the Best Actress category by Independent Reviewers of New England.

Downing Cless is Associate Professor
of Directing, Dramatic Literature and Theory, Environment and Theatre, at Tufts University. He wrote Ecology and Environment in European Drama (Routledge, 2010), which was selected to be the topic of a plenary session "Author Meets Critic" at the 2013 Comparative Drama Conference. In May 2012 his essay "Ecodirecting Canonical Plays" was published in the collection Readings in Performance and Ecology edited by Wendy Arons and Theresa J. May (Palgrave Macmillan), and also he was a panelist in the closing session of the Earth Matters on Stage symposium and festival at Carnegie Mellon University. His articles on theatre about the environment are in TDR: The Drama Review, Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, and The Journal of American Drama and Theatre. He has presented papers and been on panels at conferences such as the American Society for Theatre Research, the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, and the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment.

Director of over sixty plays in university and professional theatres during his career, in the past few years he brought to the Tufts stage productions of Oedipus & Antigone by Sophocles (in translations by former colleague Peter D. Arnott), The Madwoman of Chaillot by Jean Giraudoux (newly translated by colleague Laurence Senelick), a contemporary interpretation of Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe, and a '80s sci-fi sit-com titled Rain. Some Fish. No Elephants. by Y York. In the 1980s, Cless was Associate Artistic Director of Boston's TheaterWorks, for which he directed critically-acclaimed productions of Mensch Meier by Franz Xaver Kroetz and The Island by Athol Fugard, John Kani, and Winston Ntshona. With the Underground Railway Theater he has co-directed three original plays, Sanctuary: The Spirit of Harriet Tubman; The Christopher Columbus Follies: An Eco-Cabaret; and InTOXICating: An Eco-Cabaret (which was the recipient of a grant and award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).

In addition to serving as Department Chair 1995-2001 and 2010-2013, he has been on numerous departmental and university committees, including having chaired the Academic Review Board and the Academic Awards Committee. For the last ten years he has been a board member and treasurer for the Underground Railway Theater, now in its new home of five years, The Central Square Theater.


Lunch & Learns occur every Thursday during the fall and spring semesters. Everyone is welcome. Food will be provided on a first-come basis. Lunch & Learn attendance is required for students enrolled in ENV0095 Special Topics in Environmental Studies with Colin Orians.


Sponsored by the Environmental Studies Program and the Tufts Institute of the Environment
Tufts University, 210 Packard Avenue, Miller Hall, Medford, Massachusetts

Have questions about Using Theater to Explore Issues Related to Climate Change? Contact Environmental Studies Program at Tufts University

When & Where

Tufts University
10 Upper Campus Rd
Rabb Room, Lincoln Filene Center, Tisch College
Medford, MA 02155

Thursday, April 10, 2014 from 12:00 PM to 1:15 PM (EDT)

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Environmental Studies Program at Tufts University

Founded in 1984, The Environmental Studies Program (ENVS) was one of the first multidisciplinary environmental programs in the United States. Our students and alumni have become effective practitioners and advocates for the environment in medicine, law, finance, industry, government, and other academic fields.

Environmental Studies is offered as a dual major in conjunction with any departmental major in the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering—normally excluding interdisciplinary programs. This dual-major program combines the depth of a major in a specific field with a wide breadth of environmentally oriented courses. 

In addition to our academic program, we offer weekly "Lunch and Learn" lectures that are open to the public, a yearly major lectureship on an environmental topic, and periodicly other events. 

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Using Theater to Explore Issues Related to Climate Change
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