CSU Alum’s Environmental Fiction Unearthed at Bas Bleu

By Nicole Towne, SMTD Publicity Intern

Twenty years from tomorrow, a young woman named Estella finds herself pregnant. She lives in an underground bunker with her love interest, Leopold. The current state of the earth above is deemed to be uninhabitable, and the two are surviving off a dwindling number of food pellets. This is where Laura Pritchett’s play Dirt, A Terra Nova Expedition begins.

Dirt, running from April 5 to May 6 at the Bas Bleu Theatre, explores what it means to truly love and honor the Earth. It is a story of love, birth, and resilience. The play combines science with imagination to create a production that allows the audience to be able to learn and feel.

Pritchett, a Colorado State University alumna (B.A. English, 1993; M.A. English 1995) and a Coloradan at heart, has written seven books and has received multiple awards for her work including the PEN USA Award and the Milkweed National Fiction Prize. In 2015, the essay collection “Dirt: A Love Story” was published and included Pritchett’s essay, “Hostile Takeovers: An Ode to Guts and Gardens.” The essay went on to be the foundation for Dirt.

The characters are slightly mysterious. Most of them the audience knows little about. Some of them come and go, and nearly the entire cast plays multiple roles. Each character comes across likeable and passionate. Estella, played by Tabitha Tree, is a both a scientist and a dreamer. She spends afternoons researching in her lab and writing a play. Leopold, played by CSU junior theatre major Jake Richardson, is loving and yearning to leave the small capsule in the ground that he and Estella call home. He is growing ill and is determined to not let his life pass him by without experiencing the above ground world. Through Estella’s imagination, the audience meets her father, a warm and empathetic scientist who treats the soil as a gold and will go to extremes to protect it. He speaks to the audience as if he is their professor.

Dancers, including CSU sophomore theatre performance major Holly Wedgeworth, help bring the spirit of the mother earth to life and tell the story of creation from the perspectives of the Sumerian, Greek, Lakota, and Ainu people. Projections are used throughout the show and add an additional opportunity for visualization.

The show brings a unique energy to the Bas Bleu Theatre. It takes large issues such as climate change and fracking breaks it down it into comprehensible ideas. Both scientific and emotional, Dirt urges viewers to cultivate kindness towards the ground beneath their feet and the life that exists all around them.