Why Climate Theatre?

According to a recent study conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Milieudefensie Jong, 1 in 5 young people aged between 16 and 30 regularly experience stress due to the climate crisis. 70 percent are concerned about climate change, and 1 in 4 avoid climate news and are uncertain about having children.

In short, the climate crisis has a significant impact on the quality of life for young people – including students and PhD candidates at TU Delft.

What can we do about it? Partly through researching the changing climate and exploring technological mitigation and adaptation possibilities, like the Climate Action Programme at TU Delft. Additionally, by reflecting on and giving form to the uncertainties and emotions that underlie the facts. These are critical life questions; for now and the future. What perspective do I have, can I grieve – but also hope? What can I expect, and what is my role?

The climate crisis is too vast to comprehend; philosopher Timothy Morton aptly refers to it as a ‘hyper-object’. Despite well-founded scenarios, we find it challenging to prepare for the coming decades. How can we make something like this manageable?

Historically, theater has always been a means of coping with intense emotions and uncertainties. Theater is partly fiction – not always – but deeply rooted in human experiences such as despair and mortality, love and struggle, corruption and hope. The power of theater is to make such emotions visible, as we empathize with actors. Aristotle, in his text about drama, Poetics, recognized the power of catharsis, which means an emotional cleansing experienced through watching theater. Theater acts as a mediator: we can allow emotions without being overwhelmed because actors literally give them form for us. Good theater is often more captivating than a book, conversation, or a film. You vicariously experience the same emotions the actors have.

Therefore, climate theater plays a significant role in climate discussions. It gives a voice to what is otherwise difficult to articulate: the fear of what is to come. In collaboration with the Climate Action Programme and Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, we are doing something special. In the heart of IDE’s hall, the theater group TG Vagebond will perform the play “Adem” (“Breath”) – in which a couple faces the difficult question of whether or not to bring a child into this world (Again: 1 in 4 young people express doubts about this due to the climate crisis). An impactful dialogue, with plenty of action from both actors. TG Vagebond specializes in site-specific theater, making full use of the hall. It’s a unique event, and we are grateful that IDE is willing to experiment with this.

After the performance, Eva van der Kooij, TU Delft alumna and climate advisor at KNMI, and Maurits van der Heijde, a climate psychologist at Hogeschool Inholland, will engage in discussions with the audience. We are very curious if the play contributes to articulating feelings and emotions.

Important note: The performance is in DUTCH. It is challenging to organize climate theater in English – but if this time is a success, who knows what we might arrange next.