By Luca Gross
A reflection forum was held in the Cardinal Lounge at the Angell College Center Tuesday, March 22 . These reflection Tuesdays are an opportunity for various professors of all disciplines to share their focuses with students at SUNY Plattsburgh.
Dr. Emily Rollie, an associate professor at Central Washington University, has a PhD in theater and has committed much of her academic work to the study of theater disciplines, directing and intimacy choreography. Her focus is feminist theater and advocating change through the medium of theater.
Rollie’s work has been established in several different American and Canadian theater focused publications including, “Theater Journal,” “Theater Survey,” “Canadian Theater Review,” “Theater Annual: A Journal of Theater and Performance of the Americas,” “SDC Journal Peer-Reviewed Section” and “Theater History Studies”.
During the reflection on Tuesday, Rollie discussed “Cuts to the Bone: An Ecofeminist Critique of Catherine Banks ‘Bone Cage,’” a reflection of a Nova Scotian play “Bone Cage” by Canadian playwright Catherine Banks.
“It’s really hard to point to one single definition of ecofeminism,” Rollie said. “At its core, ecofeminism examines the ways that the domination of the natural environment reflects and is linked to the domination of women.”
Ecofeminism analyzes the connection between women and nature, as well as the systems of oppression that end up dominating women and by extension dominating nature.
This play won Banks a Governor’s General Award which is awarded annually for outstanding contributions to the visual or media arts in a volunteer or professional capacity. It centers around the forestry industry in a rural town in the province of Nova Scotia. It looks at how the young people, who see the destruction around them, work for the industry that causes the destruction.
The play has been afforded productions across Canada and adapted for other areas that show it. There is also a 2020 film adaptation directed by Taylor Olson.
While Banks does not consider herself an activist, according to Rollie, the content of the play is a message publicly implying something about a system, in this case it is the forestry industry of the Nova Scotia area. Rollie’s main focus in the reflection was the intersectionality of men, women and the environment.
“I’m also arguing that a deeper reading of this play reveals the nuanced complicated human relationships with the natural world,” Rollie said. “Banks moves us toward a more complex consideration of the connection.”
Rollie has a passion for theater and the platform it offers in advocating for change.
“The first sort of larger message or takeaway for me is that art, particularly theater, because of its performative nature, is political,” Rollie said. “Whatever we put on stage, bodies mean something, bodies say something, and particularly for this play, that becomes really apparent.”
Caleb Eugley, a member of the audience on Tuesday, is a theater major who finds a particular interest in feminist theater as well.
“I’m very interested to take what I’ve learned from this and from one of my classes, and just kind of explore how I can connect what I’ve learned about feminist thought to the ecosystem and to see how I can become a better activist,” Eugley said. “I’m very excited to look more into it. And to see what else I can find, looking through that lens and maybe even find more plays with a similar message.”