Using theatre to examine environmental and social sustainability
This module uses Jordan as a case study for examining questions of sustainability in the context of refugee flows. It begins with lectures on Jordan’s environmental conditions, their political history with refugees, and how theatre fosters responses to current challenges. The second stage of the module entails collaborative work by students in teams to research the situation and use those materials to create scenes for a play. At a third stage, students create a theatrical piece based on the resources they have gathered. In the final stage of the module, the students present the final play to an outside audience.
Note: Content adapted from the curricular project.
The module was developed for junior-senior level courses in:
- Anthropology: Space and Place (Professor Julie Fairbanks)
- Theatre Arts Senior Seminar (Professor Susan Wolverton)
- Environmental Studies Seminar (Professor Marty St. Clair)
The module serves as a capstone course for the latter two programs. To give theatre students adequate time to develop the play, the module activity began near the beginning of the course. In the anthropology and environmental studies courses, this module fit into a larger framework for the overall course.
The learning outcomes of the module include:
- Increased awareness of the interaction between political, cultural, and environmental factors in the refugee crisis
- Recognition of the key roles that different disciplines can play in examining a “wicked” problem
- Use of the arts to convey important societal messages
- Effective collaboration to produce a cohesive work about complex issues that is accessible to a broad audience
The anthropology course does not require prerequisites in the discipline, but does demand skills in critical reading, analysis, and research. The environmental studies program is a collateral major; students must complete another major as well as the requirements for environmental studies. Thus, students in this course are bringing diverse disciplinary expertise and a broad background (environmental science, economics, statistics, humanities, social sciences) into environmental studies. Theatre arts majors have diverse experiences in theatre along with specialties in technical theatre, playwriting, directing, and acting.
All students are bringing analytical skills developed in their majors, but are being asked to apply them to an area outside of their expertise in collaboration with individuals of very different backgrounds, and present their material to a public largely unfamiliar with the issues.