The UCO Labyrinth: A Site for Inner Reflection, Social Change, and Transformative Learning
Written by Kato Buss, Ph.D., Chair, Department of Theatre Arts –
On Monday, November 13th at 4:00pm, the UCO Department of Theatre Arts senior capstone students presented a performance of The Blue Puzzle by Clare Duffy, in conjunction with the Climate Change Theatre Action (CCTA). CCTA is a worldwide series of readings and performances of short climate change plays presented to coincide with the United Nations COP23 meeting. CCTA collaborators were encouraged to design their event to reflect their own aesthetic and community. Considering this, The Blue Puzzle was performed on the UCO Labyrinth as a form of site-specific, environmental theatre. “Within contemplative pedagogy, labyrinths are one form of active meditative practice,” explains Kato Buss, Ph.D., “We believe the UCO labyrinth serves as a site of Transformative Learning and an ideal location to present a CCTA project, which asks us to deeply consider climate change; to imagine loss, survival, and resilience; and to expand our methods of telling stories and making work.” (Rudebock 2016)
The opening stage directions of The Blue Puzzle describes, “An actor working on a vast jigsaw puzzle of a blue sky. This can be represented in any way.” In our interpretation of the play, we chose the labyrinth as our representation of the puzzle located within a beautiful autumn setting on UCO campus, underneath the blue Oklahoma sky. For the performance, one student (Hannah Stevens) stood in the center of labyrinth and began reading the play, which addressed the impact of the oil industry on climate change. As Hannah read the play aloud, her classmates began to enter the labyrinth. The students were asked to listen to the words of the play and reflect on the ramifications of climate change, as well as the natural environment of our setting. “I’ve always been aware of the labyrinth as a place for inner reflection and have applied Dr. Rudebock’s labyrinth work in my theatre classes,” said Kato, “I’ve also envisioned the labyrinth as a site of performance, particularly theatre for social change. In this form of theatre, change is something that happens in addition to the theatrical experience that aims to connect or galvanize people within a cultural, social, or political cause.” Indeed, as the students walked the labyrinth and Hannah repeated the words of the play something very interesting occurred as the text, the movement, and the environment all seemed to coalesce into a serendipitous, transformative moment.
As the students completed their journey and exited the labyrinth, Hannah stood alone in the center – as if in the center of the world – to repeat the final words of the play:
“This oily world. Oil is the medium. It is the matter. I keep on thinking about how oily I am. The molecules of dinosaurs, insects, plants, crustaceans and sunshine a billion years ago runs through every moment of me. Oil defines my information. I can’t think outside of it. I can’t even imagine what or how ‘I’ would be, if it could be iterated in… light… for example. And I. I hope. I hope so much that ‘I’ could be more ‘us’. Aren’t we all so very bored of ‘me’? I think… there’s a new age of light coming. I think my grandchildren could be sunny ways of being human. And what if they are sunny, windy, wavy humans? Wouldn’t that make them brilliantly, openly, fundamentally less ‘me-ish’ and much more… and much less…and just a bit better? I have started to believe that change is inevitable. There will be solutions and they won’t only save our planet but save our lonely, oily-selves as well.” (Duffy, C., The Blue Puzzle)
Rudebock, C. Diane, Ed.D., R.N., Professor Emerita of the University of Central Oklahoma, Veriditas-Certified Labyrinth Facilitator, and The Labyrinth Society Resource VP and Research Chair, “Labyrinths in Higher Education Instructional Practice.” Available: