Earth Matters on Stage: Ecology and Environment in American Theater tells the story of how American theatre has shaped popular understandings of the environment throughout the 20th century as it argues for theatre’s potential power in the age of climate change. Using cultural and environmental history, seven chapters illuminate key moments in American theatre and American environmentalism over the course of the 20th century in the US. It focuses in particular on how drama has represented environmental injustice, and how inequality has become part of the American environmental landscape.

As the first book-length ecocritical study of American theatre, Earth Matters examines both familiar dramas, but also lesser-known grassroots plays, in an effort to show that theatre can be a powerful force for social change from frontier drama of the late nineteenth century to the eco-theatre movement, the book argues that theatre has been part of the history of environmental ideas and action in the U.S.

It also maps the rise of an ecocritical thought and ecotheater practice—what the author calls ecodramaturgy –showing how theatre has informed environmental perceptions and policies. Through key plays and productions, it identifies strategies for artists who want their work to contribute to cultural transformation in the face of climate change.


Preface From Ecotheatre to Ecodramaturgy

Introduction Where Has Theater been while the World’s been Falling Apart?

Chapter 1 Stories that Kill ~

The Frontier as Ecological Ethos in Augustin Daly’s Horizon

and William F.Cody’s Wild West: The Drama of Civilization

Chapter 2 Sabine Wilderness ~

David Belasco’s The Girl of the Golden West

and William Vaughn Moody’s The Great Divide

Chapter 3 Dynamos, Dust and Discontent ~

Eugene O’Neal’s Dynamo, and the Federal Theatre Project’s Living

Chapter 4 We Know We Belong to the Land ~

Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Chapter 5 (Re)Claiming Home ~

Lorraine Hansberry’s Raisin in the Sun; Luis Valdez’ Bernabé;

Sam Shepard’s Buried Child

Chapter 6 Stories in the Land / Legacies in the Body ~

Robert Schenkkan’s The Kentucky Cycle; Cherríe Moraga’s Heroes and Saints;

Anne Galjour’s Alligator Tales

Chapter 7 Kinship, Community and Climate Change ~

Marie Clements’ Burning Vision and Chantal Bilodeau’s Sila

Epilogue Theater as a Site of Civic Generosity