Dennis Gupa (PhD) is an Assistant Professor at the University of Winnipeg’s Department of Theatre and Film. He has an MA in Theatre Arts (University of the Philippines), MFA in Theatre (University of British Columbia), and PhD in Applied Theatre (University of Victoria). As a former Vanier scholar, he wrote his dissertation on sea rituals, climate change, and indigenous ecological knowledge in island communities in the Philippines impacted by climate crises. E-mail: d.gupa@uwinnipeg.ca


Performing Disasters and (Re)Interpreting Indigenous Ecological Knowledge as Post Disaster Mitigative Approach through Applied Theatre Practice

Abstract: When climate crises continue to destroy island communities in the Philippines and destruction becomes intense, this paper asks the question: To what extent can applied theatre informed by indigenous oceanic knowledge becomes a post-disaster mitigative approach? This paper is written from the perspective of an artist and scholar of performance studies interested in climate resilience and posthuman intervention. It offers a practice of community theatre at sites of precarity. Due to the warming waters of the Pacific, the Philippines has been attacked by strong weather events like super-typhoon Yolanda. Yolanda, which hit on November 8, 2013, was the deadliest typhoon ever recorded in the recent climate history of the Philippines. It devastated provinces in the central Philippines leaving many communities flattened. The result was more than 6,000 casualties, 4.1 million people displaced, and almost $6 billion of damage to properties. The lack of disaster risk management and context-specific adaptation models has affected the lives of many Filipinos. This paper will propose applied theatre as a post-disaster intervention that highlights the persistence of indigenous oceanic knowledge relevant to informing a performance method that spurs the agency of community members in reflecting collectively about climate crises in local island communities. Using a vernacular performance framework informed by traditional fishing methods, the paper hopes to demonstrate climate resilience, foreground cosmologies of human and ocean relationality, and magnify local creativity in the aftermath of disaster.
Keywords: indigenous ecological knowledge, climate change, applied theatre, island communities, agency and creativity