Ecotheatre: Seeding activism

by Laura Pasetti & Mirel Stambuk
Laura Pasetti has been working in the theatrical field for 33 years and she recently completed a one-year training in nature-based practices with the intention of focusing on developing a new – although very ancient – form of theatre which she calls Ecotheatre. Her explorations in this area culminated in the staging of The Remembers, a community play, at Findhorn in January 2020. Mirel Stambuk is an independent scholar of myth, trainee wilderness guide and nature connection facilitator. Here, we explain more about the concept and potential of Ecotheatre. 
Laura Pasetti has always been inspired by the ability of theatre to provide humanity with a platform from which it can experience itself.
Reflecting contemporary issues on stage is a very effective way to inspire change and, given the point at which humanity now finds itself, in terms of meeting the full force of its disconnection from nature, Eco-theatre offers both audience and players the opportunity to heal the wounds of separation.
Ecotheatre consists of using dramatisation and guided improvisation to “reflect” on stage what is happening within (our psyches, pathologies etc) and without (our social structures, in nature), and to re-connect these inner and outer realms. Theatre becomes the medium through which we more clearly see who and what we are, and where we dream of who and what we can become. The process is a journey to explore our sense of belonging and identity and to re-define our purpose.
Ecotheatre can be explored by specific diversity groups, such as those defined by age, gender and sexuality, or race and ethnicity, for example. It can be explored by individuals united by a common activity or location, such as work colleagues or community residents; or it can comprise a diverse group of strangers (intergenerational, international) to represent the complexity of the human experience.
The structure of an Ecotheatre play allows the story to be tailored to the needs of each group of players. Dramatisation allows for the natural surfacing of themes unique to that group in that space and time. And the shield guarding the characters frees up the participants to explore their repressed or shadow selves.
Ecotheatre’s coup de théâtre is not solely the performance. For the players, the process of bringing the performance into being is both profound and transformational. That is not to say that the audience is superfluous to Ecotheatre, because theatre without an audience is instead a kind of private ritual. Ecotheatre enables the lived experience of the players, and the emergent themes which surfaced in the process of bringing the play to life to move the audience, catalysing them out of their seats as passive spectators and inspiring them to act.
Ecotheatre can be manifested in different ways:
1)    As a performance to be delivered by actors in communities, or during climate conferences, where our own psychological responses to the realities of climate change and biodiversity loss are topics for discussion.
2)    As a performance to be created by the participants of a conference/course allowing the acting process to deepen their own experience.
3)    As a workshop where participants can embody the roles of the characters and practice solutions on key issues through dramatisation.
“Archetypal patterns that inhabit and condition the human psyche are more easily seen when acted out in full view. Theatre uniquely portrays the inner struggle and allows us to engage with these internal elements and align them with our better angels. Living theatre is not a spectator sport – it is an alchemical journey of transformation through the process of collective self-awareness where players and audience act as one.”
– Michael Lindfield on The Remembers

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