University of Colorado sophomore Gina Lovell will be playing the role of humanity this week in the upcoming production of “Energy Justice: The Musical.”
In the show, Lovell, as humanity, is being dumped by her boyfriend, the sun — a character played by a New Mexico high school student wearing a yellow foam hat with rays stemming from the cap.
“He’s breaking up with me like we were dating,” Lovell said. “I’m humanity and he’s energy and at the end of the show we come back to the scene and it turns out that we’re not breaking up but just finding alternative forms of energy.”
Lovell is the president of Performers Without Borders, a CU student group hosted in the Department of Theatre and Dance that will perform the educational musical for Navajo students in Thoreau, N.M., this week.
This morning, Beth Osnes, assistant professor of theater, is taking three students from the group to present the show at a high school and an Indian Education elementary school in an attempt to raise awareness and educate low-income Navajo communities about clean energy.
“I’ve been working in the Navajo Nation with women who want to sell solar powered lights and bring entrepreneurship and energy to the nation,” Osnes said. “The first step in helping these women become successful is to raise awareness about clean energy for the women, but also in their communities so people will listen and better understand what the women are selling.”
It was natural for Osnes to look at theater as a way to educate a population that has less knowledge about clean energy than somewhere like the Boulder campus, she said.
“Theater is a medium where we introduce a new story, and clean energy and women are a new story in this community,” Osnes said.
Providing clean energy to the Navajo community could reduce health risks among women who spend a lot of time in their homes and are frequently exposed to dirty energy, Osnes said.
Clean energy also fits well into the Navajo Nation’s cultural values, Osnes said.
“It’s better for the Earth and provides a better balance and relationship with the Earth than what many of the homes have now,” Osnes said.
Lovell said as a freshman she first learned about theater for social change in a class taught by Osnes. The long-time performer said she was shocked to learn about the larger impacts that could come from an educational and entertaining show, Lovell said.
“She talked about a type of theater I never heard of and how we could use it to create change in the world,” Lovell said.
It can be difficult for students to communicate with a group of low-income, often less educated communities such as the Navajo Nation, Lovell said, but she’s hoping the interactive and entertaining aspects of the musical will help bridge the gap between the CU students and the community.
The performance includes music, shadow puppets and props that Lovell said will make the information easy for the audiences to understand regardless of their age or previous exposure to issues of clean energy.
“If we want to reach students the information has to be engaging and interesting,” Lovell said. “Theater and storytelling crosses a lot of barriers.”