FT3PE-Performing Ecology

Module Provider: Film, Theatre and TV
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Lisa Woynarski

Email: l.woynarski@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:

As the effects of human influence on the Earth usher in a new ecological era, performance is responding with imaginative interventions. Find out about critical issues in performance and ecology, a new and innovative area of theatre studies. Ecology is arguably one of the most pressing and urgent issues of our day and has been the inspiration for large scale theatrical productions, dance pieces, applied theatre, community-based performance, eco-activist interventions, street theatre, children’s theatre and performance art. Using a range of contemporary performance and practitioner case studies, we will explore how performance can respond to this age of unprecedented ecological change, engaging with aesthetic and environmental contexts. By applying an ecological perspective to theatrical representation we will consider how concepts of nature and culture are problematised by performance strategies. Through close critical readings of performances, play texts, articles, visual artworks, films and popular culture, we will explore how performance questions, critiques and reinvents human relationships to nature.


This module aims to give students an overview of the area of performance and ecology, and the multiple performance strategies and theoretical debates within it. Students will address key questions at the intersection of contemporary performance and ecology by considering current ecological challenges and how performance can intervene with creative, imaginative and innovative responses. Through performance case studies, students will engage with the ecological debates within the UK, as well as gain an understanding of global ecological contexts. This module connects performance analysis with timely ecological, social and political issues and related theoretical approaches. 

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of this module, it is expected that students will be able to:

- Demonstrate an understanding of the key critical debates in performance and ecology;

- Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of a range of ways that performance makers have explored ecological ideas in performance as a formal, stylistic and thematic concern; 

- Analyse and evaluate individual performances informed by relevant critical and theoretical perspectives;

- Relate their understanding of performance and ecology to a range of other concepts introduced by the course, including identity, alternative forms, authorship and political theatre.


Additional outcomes:

This module contributes to the development of other skills and competencies which are central to the course, including:

-Oral communication and argument in group situations; 

-Deployment of research using printed and electronic resources; 

-Critical analysis and coherent argument; 

-Undertaking self-directed, independent work; 

-Identifying and addressing problems in the analysis of theatre and performance;

-Observe the shifting status and forms of contemporary storytelling in relation to environmental, political and social issues.


Outline content:

Through multidisciplinary approaches, students will research existing practice from the UK, Europe and beyond. Students will cover a range of practices, including interrogating aesthetics and ecological ethics, ecodramaturgy, ecoscenography, bio-art, eco-activism, live art and sustainable ways of making theatre. Each week we will focus on a specific performance, practitioner or company and an ecological issue, such as climate change, flooding, the Arctic, pipelines, nuclear waste, drought, environmental justice, postcolonial ecology and hungry polar bears. Through international artistic case studies, we will connect performances and critical issues in ecology, including works from Belarus Free Theatre, Violeta Luna, Benjamin Verdonck, Joseph Beuys, Fevered Sleep, Greenpeace, Agnes Denes, Steve Waters, Stephen Emmott, Caryl Churchill and Thomas Eccleshare. Key readings will include Wendy Arons and Theresa J. May (ed.) (2012) Readings in Performance and Ecology, Linda Weintraub (2012) To Life! Eco Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet and other relevant articles. (Note: this outline content is indicative, and may vary in practice).

Global context:

This module is international in scope, including global examples of performance and relevant geopolitical issues.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

Within the two hour class a range of teaching styles will be used and vary from week to week. Short lectures may be used where appropriate to introduce contextual or critical issues for discussion. The primary teaching method will be seminar-based discussion around prepared reading of theoretical approaches and play texts, enhanced through workshops. Critical analysis of both live and recorded performances will inform discussions of approaches and practices. Short presentations or performance-based activities may be involved, prepared by individuals or small groups for larger group discussion. Creative projects that engage with performative elements may also be involved.  This module will include one theatre visit, which will incur an additional cost of less than £25 for the ticket, in addition to train travel (likely to London). This external visit will form the subject of detailed class discussion, and will be connected to assessment. We endeavor to keep student costs low so we take advantage of group ticket discounts and provide advice on cost saving measures.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 16
Supervised time in studio/workshop 27
External visits 5
Guided independent study 152
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 50
Project output other than dissertation 50

Other information on summative assessment:

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:

    Requirements for a pass:

    A mark of 40% overall

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Resubmission of failed coursework 

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 31 March 2017

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