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Groundbreaking theater piece takes on the subject of climate change

Phantom Limb Company’s Falling Out examines the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear meltdown that ravaged the region of Fukushima, Japan in March of 2011.

Art has the powerful ability to offer perspective, empathy, and deeper understanding. Even when examining devastating historical events or the complex challenges we face today, art can often reframe conversations, allow for cross-cultural dialogue, and create space for connection.

Phantom Limb Company’s “Falling Out ” examines the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear meltdown that ravaged the region of Fukushima, Japan, in March 2011, marking the most fatal natural disaster in history. On March 20, this thought-provoking blend of dance, theatre, puppetry and scenic design comes to Kingsbury Hall for one night only, as part of UtahPresents 2019-20 season.

In deep research for the production, Phantom Limb Company’s director Jessica Grindstaff traveled to the Fukushima region and throughout northern Tokohu for three months in the spring of 2018. While there, Grindstaff interviewed residents directly affected by the crisis, scholars, and scientists. She also worked with a team to capture original video footage used in the production’s staggering projections.

Just as climate change is a crisis felt globally, the implications of the events in Fukushima extend far beyond Japan. Rather than a direct recount of actual events, “Falling Out” explores universal implications of loss in all its iterations, from personal relationships to a homeland.  The stories emerging from Fukushima are at once unimaginable and deeply relatable in their humanity. These personal accounts became the guide for Phantom Limb Company’s process. “I came to the conclusion that I could never come close to creating any kind of drama that is as powerful as what actually happened there. The story of the natural disaster itself is the fulcrum of the piece… We wanted to communicate that this loss is not the loss of one. This is all of ours,” Grindstaff explains.

“Falling Out” is the third piece in Phantom Limb Company’s trilogy of theatrical works focused on the humans’ changing relationship to nature, and was highlighted in a recent series by American Theatre Magazine on theatre and climate change. A common thread in all of Phantom Limb Company’s work, original puppets by Erik Sanko become vessels that catalyze empathy and universal storytelling. Dai Matsuoka, Butoh master and long-time performer with the acclaimed company Sankai Juku, collaborated with Grindstaff and the cast to approach puppetry through techniques and sensibilities from the Japanese movement form. Quite compatible with puppetry, Butoh shares a language through which to access death and grief. The production also incorporates Krump dancing, a rising street style, performed by dancer Banks Artiste.

Despite its difficult subject matter, “Falling Out” never loses sight of the essential element of hope both in surviving such events, and moving forward in the face of global problems. “What I learned from Fukushima’s people, is that the accumulation of many people doing small things is what heals the world. In order to keep doing that, we need to have a little bit of hope and optimism,” Grindstaff says.

The performance is part of UtahPresents’ current season and is presented in partnership with the Sustainability Office and the Global Change and Sustainability Center. While the company is on campus, they will be holding classes with students from Sustainability and Theatre departments, discussing a broad range of topics, including puppetry, climate change, and art as a form of activism. Preshow and postshow discussions are open to students, to explore in more depth the issues presented in the performance. For more information, email


General public: $10-$30
U students (with UCard): $5

Purchase online or at the Kingsbury Hall box office.

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