Green Stages Symposium

The Open-air Performance and Environment Network (O-P-E-N) and the University of Exeter Drama Department invite you to a symposium on ‘Green Stages’, March 9th, 6-8.30 (GMT).

Speakers: Tanja Beer (Griffith University, Aus); Volkhardt Mueller (artist, Blind Ditch); Chloe Preedy (Exeter University, English); Evelyn O’Malley (Exeter University, Drama); Cathy Turner (Exeter University, Drama).

This event takes inspiration from our project to create an outdoor stage on Streatham Campus to explore the significance and multiple practices of open-air performance in 2022.

At this moment when Covid has shifted risk between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, and outdoor performances have come under new scrutiny as venues and artists rushed to produce open air work and sometimes stages, we are beginning to draw together thoughts about the significance of performance that takes place in weather, its many forms, and what we can learn from it. Abstracts are below.

This event is co-hosted by the new network of researchers, O-P-E-N. O-P-E-N was set up primarily to facilitate dialogue between University of Exeter researchers, but with a view to making wider connections as we become able to offer support, hospitality and collaboration.

You are welcome to join us in person at the Thornlea Site, New North Road, Exeter. We will be in the Alexander Building (main building), in TS2. Please register here:

Alternatively, you are welcome to join online. Please register to do so at:,1XE4xESFnUarEzsGjHjCJQ,czZwGlZR1kC9F5136BdlHA,TZJL3SfBVEmC7myiXZt1xQ,twmN835cq0KMap0_U1vmag,uNESRmmoyEqphlQtFJWVtA?mode=read&tenantId=912a5d77-fb98-4eee-af32-1334d8f04a53

Schedule, Abstracts and Bios.

6.00 pm: Welcome

A brief introduction to the Green Stages project and the O-P-E-N network. Update on plans to grow a living open air stage on Streatham campus.

6.10: Opening up: Re-thinking outdoor practices as pandemic response

Cathy Turner and Evelyn O’Malley

This paper will draw on lockdown and post-lockdown performances, including our ‘Outside the Box’ project, to consider what new relationships to the ‘open’ air are emerging or could emerge.

A formal distinction between ‘indoor’ and ‘outdoor’ theatre ignores the porosity of thresholds, the circulation of weather between spaces. The Northern European assumption of an ‘indoors’, sealed off from the effects of its environment (one based on characteristically mild and chilly climates) is challenged both by the material effects of extreme or uncanny weather brought about by climate change, the politics of exposure and by their occupation of our imagination (Alaimo 2016). So, too, the Covid-19 pandemic, while insisting on the relative safety of staying at home (though only in relation to infection rates), has brought live performances to and across thresholds, and forced domestic interiors to open to and recognise their dependence on an exterior, more-than-human world and contingencies of weather. Ideas of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ are also politically inflected, inviting us to speculate on the subversive potential of the ‘outside’ and its troubled relationship to the ‘insides’ of power as well as those of restraint and limit.

6.20: Atmospheric Theatre: Open-Air Theatre and the Environment

Chloe Kathleen Preedy

This paper will discuss some of the work undertaken through the AHRC-funded project Atmospheric Theatre: Open-Air Performance and the Environment, which Chloe Preedy and Evelyn O’Malley co-led from 2018 to 2021. This project explored how written and performed open-air drama might help to raise awareness of air quality and atmospheric conditions, focusing mainly on the drama of William Shakespeare. We combined textual analysis of early modern plays with audience research into how contemporary playgoers might respond to the extensive aerial imagery that pervades many early modern plays, including Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies, including in relation to the aerial environments in which they encountered these performances. This presentation will reflect on how combining these research approaches advanced my understanding of open-air theatre’s aerial dramaturgies, both past and present, and how we used the resulting insights to develop educational resources for those studying or encountering open-air performances of Shakespeare’s plays today.

6.45: The Common Line Project: Staging Landscape Citizenship

Volkhardt Mueller

The Common Line is the longest straight line that can be traced across mainland Britain without crossing tidal waters.  Running over 546 miles between the north-west of Scotland and the south coast of England, it traverses different landscapes, infrastructures and urban areas. The aim of this participatory digital land art and social science project is to create a linear forest by planting trees at 20 metre intervals along its length. Focussing on encounter, dialogue and process, the project is held and developed between a multidisciplinary team of artists, academics and digital developers. It instigates exchanges between landscape stakeholders and members of the public, exploring tree futures and the associated politics of land ownership across Britain, whilst creating new relationships between people and land. This presentation will draw on specific moments of interaction with the line that have occurred between physical and digitally held spaces. It will reflect on how the concept performs with people in the re-framing of landscape through an evolving digital apparatus and through processes of orientation, including hands on creative workshops and digital tree planting.

7.05-7.30 Break (with wine for those lucky enough to be in person!)

7.30: The Living Stage: co-creating place through temporary event-spaces  

Tanja Beer

This presentation explores the potential of temporary event-spaces in regenerating urban spaces. The Living Stage is a global initiative which combines stage design, horticulture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable, biodiverse and edible event spaces. Part theatre, part garden and part growing demonstration, The Living Stage examines how community-engaged event spaces can foster dialogue and build social-ecological capital. The co-created community grown spaces become the setting for performing and celebrating ecological stories, before being circulated back into the communities that helped grow them: physical structures become garden beds and community spaces; plants become food; and waste becomes compost. A central focus of The Living Stage is to bring a regenerative focus to spatial design that creates opportunities for thrive-ability across more-than-human systems. Using examples from practice, the presentation will explore the opportunities and challenges of creative placemaking, as well as the changing role of the designer in seeking out possibilities for political, social, cultural and ecological revitalisation. 

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