Students acting in a scene from The Trials. Two students appear to be in confrontation across a wooden table, with other students in the background, watching the pair.
Photo by Jae Yang

Acting for Earth

Fourth-year drama students put their skills to the test with a theatrical warning of climate change run amok

About The Author

Author image: Scott Anderson

Scott Anderson

Editor, University of Toronto Magazine

A few decades from now, during an unfolding global catastrophe, a group of people go on trial for their role in the climate crisis. The members of the jury are teenagers, struggling to live with the environmental chaos their elders have created.

This is the world imagined by The Trials, a play by British writer Dawn King that fourth-year students at U of T’s Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies mounted for their annual mainstage show.

In this scene from the dress rehearsal, jury members confront one another about their biases. Noah (on the left in the picture) votes guilty against all defendants, calling them dinosaurs. Grace believes history will judge the trials as gravely misguided. Much of the tension in the show comes from how each young person interprets the concept of eco-justice.

Director Andrew Kushnir, who as a sessional lecturer at the centre selected the show, says The Trials offers a dramatic and emotional perspective on “how the temperature of our relationships will change with our warming planet.”

For student Emily Beaubien, who plays Ren, it’s how the characters interact – “and what we do to get what we want” – that makes the topic come alive in a fresh and interesting way.

As part of their undergraduate journey, the annual mainstage show enables graduating students to consolidate the skills they’ve acquired but also, in this case, says Kushnir, learn how theatre can play a part in social change.

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