In 2014, the Bard in the Barracks company of Fredericton, New Brunswick, staged Hamlet in the old-growth forest of Odell Park. This production split Hamlet into two narrative streams, each following a different group of characters: audiences were divided and guided through scenes that unfolded separately in various locations throughout the park, largely following either Hamlet or Ophelia. Using this production as a case study, this paper analyzes how immersive, open-air performance provides opportunities for theater to think ecologically. Outdoor performance invites the participation of often unpredictable environmental elements: more-than-human actants may often literally swoop into or interrupt a scene, but they also influence directorial and acting choices that then co-produce new meanings in the play text. Beyond opening new understandings in Shakespeare's texts, this co-performance of cultural works and natural elements unsettles conventional nature/culture dichotomies by exposing how "nature" is itself a culturally manufactured performance, particularly in legislated green spaces such as Fredericton's Odell Park. By positing outdoor Shakespeares as events that expose the performativity of nature and naturalness, this paper asks how performances and performance studies can challenge hegemonic ideas about nature and ecological space, and thus contribute to environmental activism. Finally, drawing in Walter Benjamin's concept of zerstreuung, in which aesthetic pleasure is a vehicle for revolutionary ideas, this paper explores how outdoor Shakespeare performance might become a powerful vehicle for popular ecological thinking.


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pp. 449-466
Launched on MUSE
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