Earth Matters on Stage: Ecology and Environment in American Theater tells the story of how American theater has shaped popular understandings of the environment throughout the twentieth century as it argues for theater’s potential power in the age of climate change. Using cultural and environmental history, seven chapters interrogate key moments in American theater and American environmentalism over the course of the twentieth century in the United States. 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 theater, Earth Matters examines both familiar dramas and lesser-known grassroots plays in an effort to show that theater can be a powerful force for social change from frontier drama of the late nineteenth century to the eco-theater movement. This book argues that theater has always and already been part of the history of environmental ideas and action in the United States.

Earth Matters also maps the rise of an ecocritical thought and eco-theater practice – what the author calls ecodramaturgy – showing how theater 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.

chapter |17 pages


Where has theater been while the world's been falling apart?

chapter 1|39 pages

Stories that Kill

Augustin Daly's Horizon and William F. Cody's Wild West: The Drama of Civilization

chapter 2|30 pages

The Sabine Wilderness and Progressive Conservation

David Belasco's The Girl of the Golden West and William Vaughn Moody's The Great Divide

chapter 3|33 pages

Dynamos, Dust, and Discontent

Eugene O'Neal's Dynamo and the Federal Theatre Project's Living Newspapers Triple-A Plowed Under and Power

chapter 4|39 pages

We Know we Belong to the Land

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

chapter 5|41 pages

(Re)Claiming Home and Homelands

Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, Luis Valdez's Bernabé, and Sam Shepard's Buried Child

chapter 6|38 pages

Stories in the Land/Legacies in the Body

Robert Schenkkan's The Kentucky Cycle, Cherríe Moraga's Heroes and Saints, and Anne Galjour's Alligator Tales

chapter 7|38 pages

Kinship, Community, and Climate Change

Marie Clements's Burning Vision and Chantal Bilodeau's Sila

chapter |7 pages


Theater as a site of civic generosity