Downstream marries water research and performance art

SASKATOON - A University of Saskatchewan travelling theatre production takes audience members through an exercise in decision making when flooding or drought threatens. The play will stop in Calgary, Medicine Hat, Saskatoon and Cumberland House starting February 17.

Downstream is a collaboration between the U of S Global Institute for Water Security (GIWS), the School of Environment and Sustainability and the Department of Drama. The work builds on a series of workshops held throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan in 2012 that used multiple social science methods to gather views on water security from those working in or with an interest in water stewardship.

"Downstream is an innovative way to convey research knowledge and get people to consider how they might use that knowledge," said Graham Strickert, a research associate with GIWS and project manager. "The play uses a style called forum theatre that invites audience members to make decisions as the story progresses. For example, should authorities breach a levee and flood land to save a community downstream? Who bears the effects of decisions made upstream?"

The production is a satirical look at how water management plans are created using statements, feedback and observations gathered from workshop participants. Following the performance, audience members will be invited to give feedback about research results and also the drama production as a communications format.

"We originally presented results to stakeholders the traditional way - in person through a PowerPoint presentation - and I left feeling that there was a better way to do this," said Strickert. "Using forum theatre engages people and leads to better dialogue and discussion. It's an experiment, but one that may strengthen future research programs."

The play is written by award-winning Cree playwright Kenneth T. Williams and performed by U of S drama. Funding for the initiative came from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Connections (SSHRC) Grant program which supports events and outreach activities that mobilize research knowledge.

Downstream performance schedule

Tickets are free and can be reserved by visiting

February 18, 7:30 pm Fort Calgary, Calgary, Alberta

February 19, 7 pm Medicine Hat Library, Medicine Hat, Alberta

February 21, 1 pm Convocation Hall, U of S Campus, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

February 24, 1 pm Charlebois Community School, Cumberland House, Saskatchewan


For more information, contact:

Meagan Hinther
Communications Specialist
University of Saskatchewan
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