A New Play About Climate Change in New York City

Extreme Whether by Karen Malpede

While visual artists were relatively quick to tackle issues of climate change, until recently, theatre artists have been surprisingly silent on the subject. Those who dared tell climate change stories were for the most part on the other side of the Atlantic where the British Council, among other enlightened organizations, supported and encouraged such artistic explorations. Over the past few years, plays like The Contingency Plan by Steve Waters, Greenland by Moira Buffini, Matt Charman, Penelope Skinner and Jack Thorne, Ten Billion by Stephen Emmott, The Heretic by Richard Bean, and many others, have been presented on London’s big and small stages to wide appeal. But the harvest hasn’t been nearly as abundant in the U.S. I don’t know if this is due to artists shying away from the challenge, or to theatres being too financially-dependent on conservative money to take political risks, but it is puzzling that such a important public dialogue has remained almost absent from our stages for so long. The few plays that did address climate change issues on our own soil have done so not too directly, not too radically, and certainly not on a mainstage. But this is about to change.

Playwright Karen Malpede from Theater Three Collaborative in New York City has written a new play that deals with climate change head-on and is not afraid to dive into the nasty political mess we have created. Extreme Whether tells the story of two climate change scientists and two climate change deniers, an environmentalist, an eco-activist and a frog. I saw a reading of the first draft of the play at the Horticultural Society in December and was impressed with how much science Ms. Malpede was able to include in the play without ever sacrificing the integrity of the characters or the story. Two more readings will be presented on April 8 and April 13, 2013 at Theater for the New City as part of Theater Three Collaborative‘s season with a panel of scientists and activists being convened around the play. If you believe in the power of art to effect meaningful social change, consider supporting this play so it can move on to production.


Chantal Bilodeau is a playwright and translator whose work focuses on the intersection of science, policy, art, and climate change. She is the Artistic Director of The Arctic Cycle – an organization created to support the writing, development and production of eight plays that look at the social and environmental changes taking place in the eight countries of the Arctic – and the founder of the blog and international network Artists & Climate Change. She is a co-organizer of Climate Change Theatre Action, a worldwide series of readings and performances of short climate change plays presented in support of the United Nations COP meetings.

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