A photograph of a snow-covered shoreline by a peaceful ocean located on the right. Above, the sky is a warm red-orange and is strewn with wisps of dark purple-grey clouds.

Performance Activism for a Just Transition

Thursday, July 8, 2021 | 13:30 - 15:00


Live discussion on Zoom; spoken in English. No ASL interpretation or translation will be offered for this event. 

Join Now in Room C

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has made it clear that the next decade must see “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”  Galvanizing support for a socially just energy transition and refashioning ourselves from our existing “petrocultures” within the short timeframe required to prevent the worst case scenarios of global warming requires cultural leadership. We start from the position that performance can help to connect the dots between economic degradations caused by decades of neoliberal ascendency and the ravaged state of natural world, inspire us to dismantle existing fossil fuel infrastructures and embark on a path towards zero emissions, all the while prioritizing the communities most oppressed and deeply impacted by changing climates. We also frame this discourse by acknowledging the Indigenous epistemologies that demonstrate non-extractive relations as deeply informed reciprocal methods may guide such transitions. Drawing on the framework for assembling “sustainable tools” advanced by Natalie Alvarez, Claudette Lauzon and Keren Zaiontz in Sustainable Tools for Precarious Times, this Zoom discussion invites participants to share and amplify “sustainable tools” and “adaptable tactics” to spur climate action, shape social imaginaries about energy, dismantle the apparatus that fuels our current “petrocultures,” and/or promote a just energy transition through performance. This session will convene to discuss specific "sustainable tools for a just transition" as well as next steps in working towards sustainability within our organization, our discipline(s), and our respective universities and/or performance companies. 


Kristy Benz is a queer performance artist and climate justice activist located in Mohkinstsis (so-called Calgary) on Treaty 7 Territory. After graduating from Bishop’s University with degrees in Liberal Arts, English Literature, and Drama, Kristy pursued her love of clown. She trained at the Manitoulin Conservatory for Creation and Performance (also lovingly known as the Clown Farm) for several summers before moving to Northern California to do the Professional Training Program at Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre. She recently led Attitude of the Heart, a six-week clown workshop for climate activists, as artist-in-residence with the Ontario Clean Air Alliance as part of the FUTURES/forward community-engaged arts mentorship program.

Sheila Christie studies how people and communities shape their identities through creative practices. As an Applied Theatre practitioner, Sheila helps people use theatre to tell their stories and foster connections within their communities. Women’s experiences, queer perspectives, decolonization, and climate change are priorities in her current work. Along with directing and stage managing for local theatres in Cape Breton, Sheila leads applied theatre workshops and develops original productions to promote social change.  

The Centre for Sustainable Curating (CSC) is located in the Visual Arts department at Western University, located on the traditional lands of the Anishinaabek, Haudenosaunee, Lūnaapéewak and Neutral (Chonnonton) peoples, in current-day London, Ontario. The Centre for Sustainable Curating supports research, exhibitions, visual/digital production, and pedagogy focused on environmental and social justice. The CSC encourages research into waste, pollution, and climate crisis, and the development of exhibitions and artworks with low carbon footprints. The CSC is represented by director Kirsty Robertson and SSHRC postdoctoral fellows Amanda White and Zoë Heyn-Jones

Selena Couture is a white settler scholar and associate professor in Drama, U of Alberta. Her research engages with performances and relationships to land: deconstructing settler colonial whiteness and possession while foregrounding the maintenance of Indigenous places through performance. Publications include, Against the Current and Into the Light and On this Patch of Grass. She is a co-director of the Ecologies research cluster with Hemispheric Encounters and part of the Kule scholar cohort focusing on Climate Resilience in the 21st Century.  

Ian Garrett is designer, producer, educator, and researcher in the field of sustainability in arts and culture. He is the director of the Centre for Sustainable Practice in the Arts; Associate Professor of Ecological Design for Performance at York University; and Producer for Toasterlab. He maintains a design practice focused on ecology, technology and scenography.With Chantal Bilodeau, he co-directs the Climate Change Theatre Action. His writing includes Arts, the Environment, and Sustainability for Americans for the Arts; The Carbon Footprint of Theatrical Production in Readings in Performance and Ecology, and Theatre is No Place for a Plant in Landing Stages from the Ashden Directory.

Kendra Fanconi is the Artistic Director of The Only Animal, a 16-year-old theatre company that is dedicated to solutionary outcomes for climate. She is known for her love of the impossible. Selected Credits writing/directing: World premiere of Slime, by Bryony Lavery, tinkers, based on the Pulitzer-Prize winning novel by Paul Harding,  NiX, theatre of snow and ice, at Cultural Olympiad (Winner of Betty Mitchell Award and Vancouver’s Critic’s Choice Award).  Current projects include 1000 Year Theatre and Museum of Rain. Kendra lives on traditional, unceded Shíshálh land as a farmer, a forager, partner to a philosopher, and mother to two kids who are real characters.

Megan Johnson is a performance scholar, arts administrator, singer, and dramaturg based in Toronto, Canada. She is currently a PhD candidate in the Theatre & Performance Studies department at York University where her doctoral research is focused on disability performance, infrastructural politics, and expanded dramaturgy. Megan holds Master’s degrees in theatre & performance studies from York University and in musicology from the University of Ottawa, as well as a Bachelor of Music degree from Acadia University. Her work has been published in Canadian Theatre Review, Journal of Public Pedagogies, and Performance Matters.

Nicholas Tyler Reich (he/they) is a doctoral student at Vanderbilt University’s Department of English, where he studies queer and trans ecologies, literatures of the US Deep South and Appalachia, energy ontologies, film, and digital media. Their work has been published or is forthcoming in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, the upcoming reference book The Encyclopedia of LGBTQIA+ Portrayals in American Film, the upcoming edited collection The Anthropocene: Approaches and Contexts for Literature and the Humanities, and elsewhere.

Kimberly Skye Richards is Public Energy Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta. She holds a PhD in Performance Studies from UC-Berkeley. In her research, teaching, and creative practice, she engages performance as a vehicle for inspiring a just energy transition. Currently she is building an open-access video archive of performance-based strategies to promote a just energy transition. Kim recently co-edited an issue of Canadian Theatre Review on “Extractivism and Performance” (April 2020). Her research also appears in TDR: The Drama Review, Theatre Journal, Sustainable Tools for Precarious Times, and An Ecotopian Lexicon: Loanwords to Live With. (Krichar3@ualberta.ca).