The CDTPS presents its 2024 Mainstage Show, The Trials

March 1, 2024 by Elise Tigges

The Centre for Drama, Theatre & Performance Studies (CDTPS) will present its annual Mainstage Show from March 7 to 10 at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse. This year’s show The Trials is a Canadian premiere written by Dawn King, directed by Andrew Kushnir, and performed by the students of DRM403. 

The Trials is set in the not-too-distant future following a climate catastrophe. Youth jurors are tasked with deciding the fate of three defendants based on their role in a climate catastrophe. The play very directly addresses the climate crisis, but as DRM403 student, Chloe Ali says, “It’s also a play about humanity, morality, learning about what might happen to our resources if we continue the way we have been today.”  

A pertinent story given today’s current climate crisis; the play offers a way into what can be a challenging topic for many people. In speaking about the play, Director Andrew Kushnir explains that in a subject that often centres on science and a never-ending slew of statistics, the theatre offers a different approach. He asks, “Might we be able to use art and the relational power of art, specifically dramatic work, to move people deeper into a sense of awareness and potentially curiosity?” 

This play offers so much for the performers involved, both as young artists but also as individuals living through a climate crisis themselves. For DRM403 student Fiona Du, the play is something she connects to deeply, but also presents new perspectives. 

“I’m really connected to plays that make people think more critically about the world that we live in and also their complacency in upholding that world, and then allowing future generations to live with the consequences of their actions,” says Du. “I think this play spotlights young people in a role that hasn’t really been seen before. We’re very much portrayed as leaders in the climate crisis in this play and also pictured as sort of very capable individuals in advocating for a better climate policy.”  

For DRM403 student Emily Beaubien, it is the characters that excite her in this work. In a show with 10 jurors (originally 12) and three defendants she says, “What comes most alive in the show is the relationships. How people interact with one another and what we do to get what we want and how people react to that...even in a catastrophe, or following a catastrophe, what connections do we make and break.” 

This sense of connection and community has been carried through the cast. Students shared that their connections to fellow cast members have been one of the greatest joys of this process. They can learn, grow, and tackle this challenging material together. 

The play also forces theatre practitioners to consider their own environmental impact and the production team has taken this very seriously. They are working to dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of the show by only using set pieces and costumes that are already in the University’s collection and reusing materials such as the plexiglass barriers used to protect people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cast members were also tasked with tracking their carbon footprint surrounding the rehearsal process — how did they get to class, or did they grab a to-go coffee on the way? For DRM403 student Ethan Verderber, it has made him more aware of his habits but also has broadened his outlook on the power of theatre to make change. “It won’t make you storm out into the streets overnight and demand that everything be torn down and built again, but it’ll make you think,” he says. “And eventually, if you think for long enough, you might end up with something more. So, I have Andrew to thank for that.” 

The design of the production takes an immersive approach that aims to bring the audience into the experiences of the jurors and defendants. Director Andrew Kushnir hopes that the show can be a catalyst of sorts. When asked about what he hopes the audience will take away from the show, he says, “I guess, I hope it activates. I hope it calls people’s compassion. I hope it maybe shifts, just by virtue of landing people in an aesthetic space, the relational space of the theatre, I hope that people can walk away from it and maybe read those news stories a little bit differently.” 

Learn more about the show and purchase your tickets at