Climate Change and the Inescapable Present


  • Jeanne Tiehen Wayne State College



Phenomenology, Time, Theatre


The crisis of climate change is a difficult phenomenon to conceptualize, particularly in light of how we experience time and how our consciousness works. It is an event that spans tense in ways that are difficult to pinpoint, and it provides no past precedent to shape our future anticipations. Furthermore, climate change encounters us at a moment when time also feels compressed. This paper explores climate change and its relationship to time by assessing how theatre, with its own phenomenologically unique qualities of time and experience, has portrayed these tensions. Utilizing phenomenological theories of time from Husserl and Heidegger, and drawing on philosophical and cultural theories of presentism, this paper examines how these ideas manifest in two climate change plays: Moira Buffini, Matt Charman, Penelope Skinner, and Jack Thorne’s Greenland (2011) and Stephen Emmott’s Ten Billion (2012). In conclusion, it is argued that theatre’s own conventions of time and space allows an inescapable present to exist, in which audiences are given a phenomenological experience of climate change that is otherwise unparalleled.

Author Biography

Jeanne Tiehen, Wayne State College

Jeanne Tiehen is an Assistant Professor and Director of Theatre at Wayne State College in Nebraska. She graduated with her Ph.D. and M.A. in Theatre Studies from the University of Kansas where she served as Managing Editor for the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism. Her dissertation, “Time is of the Essence: The Centrality of Time in Science Plays and the Cultural Implications,” explores representations of time in several science plays, arguing that theatre uniquely demonstrates the cultural relationship between science and time. Her Master’s Thesis, “Frankenstein on Stage: Galvanizing the Myth and Evolving the Creature,” received University of Kansas’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Outstanding Thesis Award in 2013. She has presented her work on science plays at several conferences, including the American Society for Theatre Research conference, the Comparative Drama Conference, and the National Popular Culture Association & American Culture Association conference.    


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How to Cite

Tiehen, Jeanne. 2018. “Climate Change and the Inescapable Present”. Performance Philosophy 4 (1):123-38.