Theater students combine arts and activism

By Farah Bassyouni Apr 15, 2022

IWU’s “Issues In Contemporary Theatre” will hold an “Earth Arts” rally on Wednesday, April 20 from 2-5 p.m. Students in the class were tasked with the creation of a project that represents a topic or theme the class cares about in relation to theatre and arts activism. The rally will be located on the quad between Presser and the Ames Art Building, known as the “Beach.” 

The class was provided the theme of Earth Week, and decided to create an Earth Week Rally, which combined the class’s love of arts activism and their passion for sustainability and earth rights. 

“We are combining our love of the arts with our love of activism, and using what we know through storytelling to reach a larger audience with a specific, important message,” senior Alexis Ries said. 

The rally will include performance components such as a reading of David Finnigan’s “Kill Climate Deniers,” directed by students Josh Paine and Nyja White. Juniors Jaqueline Galliano and Shannon Berg created a multimedia dance video called “Mother Nature vs. Corporate America.” 

“The video depicts the never-ending battle between humans and the nature we need and abuse,” Ries said. 

The students created additional resources to lay out on tables for students, faculty and community members to get informed about the individual impacts on climate change. 

In a podcast, juniors Bailey Mattner and Anja Schrag discussed the use of art as political and eco-activism with Carrie Hanson. Hanson is a choreographer, dance educator, and the Founding Artistic Director of The Seldoms, a dance ensemble based in Chicago. 

“The students of Theatre 441 seek to foster a new mindset of empathy that focuses on appreciating our individual relationships with the earth,” Ries said.

The class is made up of theater majors Shannon Berg, Jaqueline Galliano, Hannah Haggerty, Lea Hulsey, Bailey Mattner, Josh Paine, Alexis Ries, Maddie Roever, Anja Schrag and Nyja White. Each student was able to add to the project in their own way. 

“My favorite part of putting this event together has been learning about all the ways we can use the arts to help create awareness to the issues that matter to us, like climate change,” Mattner said. 

“I loved being able to explore environmental activism through the lens of the arts!” – Hanna H

“My favorite part of the process was choosing the songs we wanted to use in the dance.” – Jaqueline G

“My favorite part of creating the event was learning more about the environmental resources in town and communicating with the Kill Climate Deniers playwright, David Finnegan!” – Lea H


– Is this event tailored towards theater majors, or is it for the whole campus? 

This is for everyone!! We encourage those of all majors to stop by for as long as you are able, whether just to browse at the resources we have available for you to explore, or to listen to an entire staged reading of Kill Climate Deniers in addition to other performance components of this rally. We will also have chalk for passersby to share their two lifestyle changes to better the planet!


– Can you also send a list of what will be performed?

  1. Kill Climate Deniers By David Finnegan staged reading (Directed by Josh Paine and Nyja White)
  2. Community Outreach dance video: “Mother Nature vs. corporate America” (choreographed and performed by Jaqueline Galliano and Shannon Berg)

Recorded/ Non-live components

  1. Student-created podcast featuring Chicago-based artist Carrie Hanson who is a choreographer, dance educator, and the Founding Artistic Director of The Seldoms (written and recorded by Bailey Mattner and Anja Schrag)
  2. Publicity team: our goal was to get the word out about the Earth Arts Rally in a way that established what our intentions are with this project – every action counts (organized by Alexis Ries and Maddie Roever)

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