Theatre Projects Place Youth Center Stage in Discussions about Building Resilient Communities


Sol-Her Energ-He Performers in New York October 2015

Fresh from the “Urban Thinkers Campus: The City We Need” conference in New York, Beth Osnes, associate professor of theatre, explains why involving youth is key to building more resilient communities.

Osnes has created a methodology specific to energy development using theatre as a tool. Her many projects work with youth and communities near and far to shine a light on a new energy future.

Based on her ongoing research, Osnes has also developed the Solar-Powered Shadow Puppet Performance project. Here, students participate in an energy forum and engage in a collective conversation about the future of energy development. They represent stakeholders from solar energy, to children, business owners, and fossil fuels. Students design and make the puppets that represent their issues and act out the interests of their stakeholders.

Download the Solar-Powered Shadow Puppet Lesson Plan…

Osnes also helped create “Sol-Her Energ-He,” an original musical performed by youth that weaves together a lively story of energy, humans, and climate. It aims to jumpstart communities in authoring ideas for city planning for resilience.

This professionally produced performance serves as an envelope for new narratives based on local issues towards a resilient future, and its goal is to include youth in the authorship of a new story for resilience.

The musical has been preformed by youth in Boulder and youth in New York City as part of the New School for the Urban Thinkers Campus “The City We Need” event in October. Here is the video teaser from one of the Boulder performances:

Onses says youth involvement is essential to community planning for resiliency. In her own words, here are four reasons why:


Beth Osnes

  1.  Youth seem uniquely situated to lead their community in embodied, participatory creative exploration of local solutions to climate and energy related challenges for great resilience, people seem to be reminded of a time when they played and tried new things.  The fact that it is youth-led seems to give people permission to play.
  1.  Our youth are arguably our greatest asset — we can benefit from understanding their needs, perspectives, and their contributions.
  1.  I want to help activate the next generation of change makers— to get to them before they are locked into life choices that bind them to a certain level of consumption and environmental impact.
  1.  I want to help validate youth voices by featuring them in spaces of positive social power— like the show at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the new Sustainability, Energy and Environment Complex at CU, and more recently at the New School in NYC for the Urban Thinkers Campus The City We Need event.

Also check out Resilient Boulder  and the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities Initiative.


  1. Check out Inside the Greenhouse for more creative climate communication!

  2. Pat Hackett says:

    Beth, you continue to amaze me…Love Pat

  3. Mark Beehner says:

    Dr. Osnes, You are the best. I think you should not only be a full professor, but also Dean of all of the University of Colorado!

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