Call for Papers: American Theatre and Performance in the Anthropocene Era

Journal of American Drama and Theatre

Special Issue: American Theatre and Performance in the Anthropocene Era 

The American Theatre and Drama Society invites submissions for the Spring 2017 issue of the Journal of American Drama and Theatre. Membership in ATDS is not required for submission of an article, but submissions from ATDS members are especially encouraged.

According to world geologists, humanity is currently living in the Holocene Era, which began 11,700 years ago and facilitated the flourishing of present life on the planet, especially the population explosion of Homo sapiens. Since the 1980s, however, many scientists have pushed to rename our contemporary geologic era the Anthropocene, in recognition of the fact that the activities of our species are now becoming the single most important cause of planetary change – from punishing weather patterns, to vanishing coastlines, the killing-off of thousands of species, and the threatened deaths of millions of human beings. Indeed, the social and political effects of climate change (including civil wars, mass emigrations, and heightened threats to individual rights and democratic government) are often a part of these discussions. While scientists continue to debate the proposal to rename the present geologic era, they also disagree about when the Anthropocene might best be said to have begun; though some set its start 5,000 years ago, with the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution, many date it from the Industrial Revolution of the 1760s, when carbon emissions began to spike. As legal scholar and author Jedediah Purdy notes, “[Determining the parameters of the Anthropocene] is not a statement of fact as much as a way of organizing facts to highlight a certain importance that they carry.”

Similarly, this CFP invites scholars to reconsider the “facts” of the past, the present, and the likely future of American theatre and performance in the light of these debates about the “importance” of the Anthropocene Era. Below are some questions authors may wish to pursue for this special issue of JADT:

  • How did theatrical production and reception in the Americas become entwined with the Industrial Revolution?
  • What did “nature” mean in popular American drama? How have the meanings of this key term changed over the years?
  • In view of our current concerns about the causes and effects of climate change, how might “Indian plays,” “working-class theatre,” “immigrant drama,” and other traditional categories of scholarship in our discipline be reinterpreted?
  • What is the carbon footprint of a typical blockbuster musical in New York City today? On the road?
  • How are contemporary American playwrights and companies addressing the concerns of global climate justice?
  • In the current debates about the Anthropocene, scientists have become evolutionary historians, taking positions about global change on the basis of their understanding of major trends in the past that have culminated in a dangerous present and what might become a disastrous future. Might performance historians construct a similar and plausible narrative arc about the future of performance in the Americas? Is a more optimistic narrative also plausible?

Manuscripts (5000 – 7000 words) should be prepared in conformity with the Chicago Manual of Style, using endnotes, and submitted as attachments in Microsoft Word format. All correspondence will be conducted by e-mail. Submissions must be received no later than December 1, 2016. Please e-mail queries and articles to Bruce McConachie, Guest Editor,

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For more information about ATDS, see

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