Plague and the Moonflower: A Regional Community Celebrates the Environment


  • David John Curtis University of New England


environmental behaviour, social effects of the arts, arts and society, music, performance, sustainability


This paper is based on a case study of audience responses to the oratorio Plague and the Moonflower. The oratorio was performed by the community of Armidale in rural New South Wales, Australia. Through an examination of the qualitative data collected, the paper shows how experiencing this performance engendered better environmental attitudes and awareness in audience members and participants. There is a lack of good case studies in the literature that explore how performance and audience participation can change attitudes and intentions through emotional and aesthetic communication. This article addresses that gap in the literature with a novel case study and empirical work.

The implication of this case study is that amateur performers and audiences are not passive in their experience of art, but are active participants in meaning-making. The production provides evidence that the engagement of the senses and the atmosphere and excitement of a performance that incorporates music and dance, as well as visual and theatrical elements and poetry, can impact on people on a deep emotional level. Furthermore, the rich emotional response that such an event instils in participants and audience members indicates the important role that such an event could play in building a sense of community. The production also provides evidence that experiencing a performance such as this can engender better environmental attitudes and awareness in audience members and participants, as well as an enhanced intention to adopt pro-environmental behaviour. This event provides support for the view that theatre and other forms of drama can “excite change” when shaped, targeted and delivered in particular ways.

Author Biography

David John Curtis, University of New England

David John Curtis has over 30 years of practical and theoretical experience in revegetation, conservation and environmental sustainability. He recently completed a major research project examining the role of the visual and performing arts in shaping environmental behaviour from which he gained his Ph.D. and on which this paper is based.