ISU Theatre production amplifies local climate planning for Ames

Everyone in the Ames can contribute to addressing climate change -- and now they can do it locally through the city’s Ames Climate Action Plan. ISU Theatre's "Climate Change Theatre Action 2021" hopes to inspire the community to get involved in local climate action when the touring production opens Thursday, Sept. 23, at 5:15 p.m., outside Parks Library. 

It's the third time Iowa State will participate in the international Climate Change Theatre Action (CCTA) initiative, a biennial, worldwide series of short plays and performances that coincides with the United Nations Climate Change Conference. It's the first time it overlaps with the development of the Ames Climate Action Plan.

Vivian M. Cook, graduate student in community development and sustainable agriculture, helped bring CCTA to Iowa State in 2017 as a performing arts undergraduate. She then directed "Climate Change Theatre Action: Lighting the Way" with ISU Theatre in 2019. This year, she is serving as the community engagement director for its third rendition.

"Our goal with this year's CCTA project is to contribute artistic resources to the climate action planning process that's happening right here," Cook said. "It's very exciting we have the opportunity, through art and storytelling, to encourage community engagement in such an important city process."

Acting locally, connecting globally

Charissa Menefee, professor of English and the production’s director, cast an ensemble of Iowa State students and alumni. During early rehearsals, the team reflected on skills, stories and experiences they can contribute to CCTA, and how to engage the community in contributing those same types of resources to local climate action planning.

Unlike traditional theater processes where performers often audition for specific roles or plays, the CCTA ensemble helped choose the final plays for the show, which features global and local voices, including writers from Iowa State's master's program in creative writing and environment.

Touring Ames

Thanks to local partnerships, seeing CCTA will be as easy as going to a fall farmers' market or festival. Eight free, outdoor performances are scheduled in public locations. Cook and Menefee hope that seeing theater in unexpected venues will draw more attention toward planning a hopeful and sustainable future in Ames.

"We want to help get as many people participating as possible, get as many voices heard as possible and make sure people understand they have an opportunity to contribute and be part of shaping what the future will be like here," Menefee said. 

Menefee and Cook also are sharing the lessons learned from Iowa State's CCTA productions with other artists around the country through published research, conferences, online forums and a new Slack collaboration space for universities and colleges engaged in CCTA projects.

Full ensemble performances are Thursday, Sept. 23, 5:15 p.m., south library lawn of Parks Library (rain location at Parks Library overhang), and Sunday, Oct. 3, 3 p.m., outdoors at the Ames Public Library (rain location at Ames Public Library auditorium.) Local partners will be on hand for climate action resource fairs at both events.

 ISU Theatre’s "Climate Change Theatre Action 2021" also will perform, showcase local artwork, facilitate community engagement activities and share local climate action resources at the following community events: 

  • Sept. 20, noon: Monday Monologues, Parks Library steps
  • Sept. 25, 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Ames Main Street Farmers' Market
  • Sept. 25, 2-5 p.m.: Play Ames: Imagine Your City community engagement festival, Franklin Park
  • Sept. 26, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.: Octagon Art Festival
  • Oct. 9, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Ames Main Street Farmers' Market
  • Oct. 16, 9 a.m.- 12:30 p.m.: Ames Main Street Farmers' Market

All performances are free and open to all.