The Girl Who Swallowed A Cactus

The Girl Who Swallowed a Cactus, by Eric Coble sets the stage for a magical story that relates to the environmental impacts that have been created. This play was written in 2018 and has continued to embark on the meaning of imagination, friendship, and discovery with a narrator, who is known as dust cloud. Dust cloud uses figures to act out multiple characters within the play. The play is set in the desert of New Mexico in the time of the present. Five children, Sheila, Leon, Dennis, and the twins set on adventures of their own in the middle of summer. Each one of them play a specific part within the story, but all follow the leader, Sheila. They meet a coyote known as, “‘Prince Desert Marigold’' who helps them understand the damage humans have created on the environment. Throughout their adventures the children learn what it means to live like a four legged animal. The coyote takes them to a part of the desert to meet other animals like a sheep, a bobcat, lizards, and roadrunners, who make fun of the children as they do not understand how much hardship these animals go through. The coyote decides to show them even further what it means to be an animal, by eating a cactus. Shila stands up to the plate and takes a bite of a spiky cactus that she mentions does not taste very good. Here is the point within the play when the children realize the lavish life they are living compared to the animals. The coyote decides to educate these children regarding the selfish acts that humans make. Either leaving their garbage and unused objects in junkyards, or not giving animals the space throughout the desert that they have been raised in. Sheila chooses to make it a goal of hers to provide more space and awareness for the animals who live within the desert. Throughout the children's adventures they have realized the environmental impacts that they have caused and learned to become more cautious of the damage humans can create in regards to negative impacts with the environment. The ecological concerns within the play become clear as the children realize how much damage humans have unconsciously created.

Greenturgical Analysis

Based on the play's relation to the ecological impact that is referenced within The Girl Who Swallowed A Cactus, displays a relationship to sustainability, the natural world, and the environmental issues that are mentioned. The use of imagination in regards to the story within the play educates audience members, specifically children, to recognize the damage humans have created on wildlife. As the play is set within the desert of New Mexico incorporates the aspects of wildlife which becomes the main purpose of the play to help the animals be able to become more a part of the children's town. This play uses greenturgy to incorporate environmental awareness within the world of theatre based on the references of being sustainable within the theatre, the impacts humans have on the natural world regarding zeöpeopathology, and the environmental issues which are seen through the animals explanations of how their world has been effected. 

The term sustainability comes from using natural resources or reused objects in the hopes of maintaining the environmental impacts. Theatre is a place where stories can be created and told to an audience to educate and present a dramatic reference. Within the play, sustainability is incorporated based on the setting in New Mexico. The setting description in the script states, “A pile of debris on a bare stage. Pieces of cars, jungle gyms, sticks, bikes, bricks, cardboard, plastic bags, etc. A magical world of junk” (5). The pieces used for the stage incorporate the meaning of using reused objects. Not only do these reused objects relate to the stage set, but also emphasize the imagination that the children characters have within the play. The Dust Cloud, also known as the narrator, picks up “whatever item comes to hand” as she explains a given character. Explaining the story to the audience Dust cloud continues to pick up the chosen object “proudly” through a piece of junk to represent the character. Using pieces of junk is another way to educate an audience to reuse objects. Reusing objects incorporates the meaning of imagination for the audience, as well as creates the notion of helping the environment. Using an ecological lens creates more of reference to the environmental impact that humans have created rather than being taught the information through the form of statistics. Theatre is a way for individuals to learn and form an opinion about the environment which is why greenturgy performances are so influential. From the article, How can Science Raise Awareness about Climate Change? Try theatre written by Chantel, Bilodeau states that, “Engaging people through the arts-not necessarily in ways that are alarmist and fear-provoking, but in ways that are thought-provoking-can remind them of their long term goals. The arts can comment on abstract things - like the sustainability of planet earth - so much better than statistics can”. Being sustainable in the world of theatre makes it possible for the meaning behind the play to come to life. The Girl Who Swallowed A Cactus plot infiltrates sustainable references which is a great way to take advantage of reusing objects as props to tell the story. 

In order to incorporate the natural world within a play comes down to the setting within the story. Having the play set in the desert of New Mexico makes it possible to imagine what the location looks like. When the coyote, also known as “‘Prince Desert Marigold’' is introduced into the story he takes the children deeper into the desert to make them experience what animals' living situations are like. He mentions to the children that, “‘this is our desert. Our names. And you - (leaning in.) Do Not. Belong. Here.’” (22). This references the selfish standpoint that humans have by thinking that anything geographic wise is their own to build upon regarding towns, buildings and homes. The children realize this fact, and mention that this is their land with the animals ruling it. The coyote continues to mention that the humans will continue to push the desert further further away by building new monuments and “wood-metal-buildings” or another “tar-and-stone road” (25). In regards to this part of the story the natural world that the animals are living in is being destroyed. In the article, “The Silence of The Polar Bears: Performing (Climate) Change in The Theory of Species” by Una Chaudhuri explores the certain aspects, specifically Zoöpeopathology which is “the infliction by humans, on other animals, of the vicissitudes of displacement” (47). This term establishes the existential threat of how humans affect animals in their habitat. This relates to the play in terms of the children and other individuals harming the coyote and other animals home. Zoöpathology is mentioned throughout the play when the coyote references how the humans have impacted their lives. Another concept within this term is having humans play animals within a theatre production. It is clear throughout the play that the meaning of humans forcing animals out of the environment causes disruption within their lives. 


Environmental Context

The environmental impact that is addressed within The Girl Who Swallowed a Cactus addresses the problem building and industrializing throughout the desert in New Mexico has had on wildlife in general. This play explores the location of the new mexico desert that has been taken advantage of by humans. The issues that New Mexico is facing can connect to the story the Coyote, within the play, is trying to address. He discusses the harm that building and ruining the wildlifes living conditions have continued to become worse than ever before. 

New Mexico surrounds 121, 679 miles which is filled with civilization, mountains, and desert. Due to the large size of the state, with 2.097 million citizens, it is ranked number two in biodiversity. The state is filled with freshwater, marine life, different climate zones, and vegetation. This area is known as a tropical zone with a lot of wildlife that thrives based on the weather. New Mexico is known for being a wintering area for birds from the north country from the time span of 6 to 9 months. Wildlife has been an important aspect throughout New Mexico but has continued to be impacted by human life. This is related to socioeconomic and political influence that have decreased biodiversity. 

From the article “Wildlife Conservation and Management in Mexico”, explains the socioeconomic impacts on Mexico's wildlife and environment. The article mentions that after the Mexican revolution the government established “land reform program in which lands were expropriated from large private landowners and redistributed to landless peasants” (272). The agreement explained that the wildlife was not incorporated or thought about based on the resources it provides. The National Natural Protected Areas also known as NPAs is focused on the “terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems where the environments have not been significantly altered by human activities and which provide diverse ecosystem services” (272). By 2004 there were 148 national protected areas that were protected throughout the land of Mexico. Aside from these protections and laws it is clear that humans have continued to impact the environment. Citizens within Mexico have continued to create more establishments and buildings that have negatively hurt the wildlife. Mexico has made it clear that they care very much about their environment and wildlife, but due to aspects like logging, hunting, vegetation extraction, shifting agriculture, oil exploitation, immigration, lack of education, and limited health services, have caused habitat loss. (276). The wildlife within Mexico has been noticed as a national priority which shows the importance that the state recognizes how much harm individuals can cause.