Does the deeply human activity of art-making have anything to do with the non-human world? Can that world—the world of animals, plants, landscapes, objects, ecology—teach us—theatre makers and students—anything about what we do, how we do it, and how we might do it differently? Conversely, do we, as “culture-workers,” special resources to offer to the increasingly threatened non-human world?
This Honors Seminar will explore a recently launched conversation between the fields of theatre/performance studies and environmental/animal studies. We will ask how theater has reflected, affirmed, contested, or flagrantly ignored the growing cultural awareness of threats to the environment and of the desperate plight of other species. We will ask how “animal acts”—in plays and elsewhere—work to create meaning about human beings; and how the “staging” of animals—in zoos, circuses, theme parks—illuminates our stagings and dramatizations of the human. We will ask how symbolic “natural” spaces like wilderness, forests, and gardens have shaped our ideas about “cultural” settings like cities, suburbs, and theatres. And we will ask how performance can intervene emotionally and politically on behalf of the non-human world that is so deeply threatened today.