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Beth Osnes

Performance for an equitable, survivable, and thrive-able future 



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I am a theatre and performance studies artist/scholar who is active in applied performance and creative climate communication. My current primary interest resides in the use of performance as a tool for supporting youth in empowering their civic voices. Applied performance refers to performance used explicitly for positive social change, which is characterized by process-oriented work on an issue identified by the community. It often takes place in a non-traditional performance space (live or digital) by participants who may not identify as performers, and the work together need not result in a performance: the critical reflection and resulting social action that emerge from the process are paramount. My approach is highly interdisciplinary, borrowing theoretical foundations and histories of practice from women and gender studies, feminist ecology, voice pathology, education, environmental studies, sustainable development, and applied theatre. I seek to support youth voices to author and actualize an equitable, survivable, and thrive-able future for all life and the ecosystems upon which all life relies.

     As an Associate Professor of Theatre and Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado I co-director of Inside the Greenhouse, an initiative for creative communication on climate, I toured an original musical Shine to Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities locations to facilitate youth voices in resilience planning, and published the book Performance for Resilience: Engaging Youth on Energy and Climate through Music, Movement, and Theatre. Open Source Materials for Shine are available through the Climate Literacy & Energy Awareness Network. As co-founder of SPEAK I recently co-published a curriculum for vocal empowerment for young women’s civic voices that is evidence-based with Dr. Chelsea Hackett and the MAIA Impact School in Guatemala. My book Theatre for Women’s Participation in Sustainable Development includes my work specific to gender equity in Panama, Guatemala, India, Nicaragua and the Navajo Nation. My life as the youngest of a family of ten and my mother activist work is featured in the award-winning documentary Mother: Caring for 7 Billion ( My book, The Shadow Puppet Theatre of Malaysia-A Study of the Wayang Kulit with Performance Scripts and Puppet Designs (2011), is an in-depth study of Malaysian shadow puppet theatre based on research and performance training as a Fulbright Scholar in Malaysia.

     As co-founder of the former Mothers Acting Up (2002-2011), I toured a program in partnership with Philanthropiece Foundation entitled, the MOTHER tour, to locations around the world to create a global community of mothers moving from concern to action on behalf of their most passionate concerns. The tour included an original one-woman performance (M)other and a workshop I developed entitled Empowering Mother Voices. In conjunction with this program I developed a methodology specific to gender equity in clean energy development using theatre as a tool to include the voices of the women living in poverty in the planning and implementation of development projects in Panama, Guatemala, India, Nicaragua, Namibia, and the Navajo Nation. I presented on this work at the World Renewable Energy Congress in Abu Dhabi in 2010, the World Renewable Energy Forum in Denver in 2012, and the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio in 2012. 

     I live in Boulder, Colorado with my life partner and husband, JP, with whom I have raised three children, Peter, Melisande, and Lerato. Each of them has contributed significantly to what I have been able to create.

Organizations Co-founded.

Organizations Co-founded
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