Photos by Don Ipock, Denise Applewhite, Michael S. Nolan, and the Artists

New York Premiere - Public Lab

THE GREAT IMMENSITY at The Public Theater

Written and Directed by Steven Cosson

Songs by Michael Friedman

April 11-May 1, 2014

Get tickets here!

In a thrilling and timely production, presented in association with The Public Theater, THE GREAT IMMENSITY is a continent-hopping thriller following a woman, Phyllis, as she pursues her husband Karl who disappeared from a tropical island while on an assignment for a nature show.

Through her search, Phyllis uncovers a mysterious plot surrounding the upcoming international climate summit in Paris. As the days count down to the summit, Phyllis must decipher the plan and possibly stop it in time. With arresting projected film and video and a wide-ranging score of songs, THE GREAT IMMENSITY is a highly theatrical look into one of the most vital questions of our time: how can we change ourselves and our society in time to solve the enormous environmental challenges that confront us?

Check out MUSIC VIDEO series made from songs in the show!

"Margin of Error"

For more video, check out our Vimeo page, video, or visit the show's Investigate Page and Video Page !

Check out!

Check out our environmental website inspired by the play! Six characters, including Polly, are bloggers on the site, posting about a wide variety of environmental topics and telling the real stories of individuals making a difference in these large and vital issues. The site also features an original video series by our Associate Artist Alix Lambert of interviews with artists creating inspirational environmental work, the first of which is with Academy Award-winning Louie Psihoyos, director of The Cove. We hope you'll explore the site, comment on the posts and videos, and help us spread the word!

The Great Immensity explores the themes of climate change and biodiversity loss in two distinct locations: Barro Colorado Island (BCI) in the Panama Canal and the city of Churchill in arctic Canada. Both of these extraordinary places have natural ecosystems already deeply affected by the shift in climate, centers of scientific research, and relationships to global shipping: the Panama Canal and the Port of Churchill. The play takes its name from an enormous Chinese Panamax ship that the authors observed crossing the Panama Canal. Drawing on interviews with individuals such as botanists, paleontologists, climatologists, indigenous community leaders, Polar Bear Tour guides, and trappers, The Great Immensity gives voice to real people whose stories make the reality of present crisis tangible and viscerally felt, inspiring us all to make the profound changes this moment demands.

With The Great Immensity, The Civilians launches The Next Forever Initiative, an ongoing commitment to produce work with an environmental conscience.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1010974. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


Written and directed by:
Steven Cosson

Music and lyrics by:
Michael Friedman

Literary Associate:
Rachel Lerner-Ley

The Public's New York Premiere production, April 11- May 1, 2014:

Damian Baldet
Cindy Cheung
Dan Domingues
Rebecca Hart
Trey Lyford
Chris Sullivan
Erin Wilhelmi

Director: Steve Cosson
Scenic Design: Mimi Lien
Costume Design: Sarah Beers
Lighting Design: Jeff Croiter
Sound Design: Alex Hawthorn
Based on the original Sound Design by: Ken Travis
Music Director: Amanda Grody
Projection Design: Jason H. Thompson
Choreography: Tracy Bersley
Production Stage Manager: Terri K. Kohler

The Civilians worked with scientists, policy makers, artists and students of Princeton University during the 2009-2010 season:


The Great Immensity was developed during a 2009-2010 Princeton Atelier in the Lewis Center for the Arts in collaboration with the Princeton Environmental Institute at Princeton University.  The Princeton Atelier is a unique program that brings together professional artists from different disciplines to create new work in the context of a seminar/workshop with Princeton students. The Civilians worked with scientists, policy makers, artists, and undergraduates at Princeton University to develop the script and research the many topics associated with climate change.

The play received a Work-In-Progress showing on April 17, 2010 at the Berlind Theatre at the McCarter Theatre Center at Princeton University.

The Public Theater in New York presented a reading of THE GREAT IMMENSITY as part of the New Work Now! Festival on May 12, 2010. The play received readings at the Barrow Street Theater in October of 2010 and in Manhattan Theatre Club's 7@7 series on April 11, 2011. Excerpts were read at CUNY's Graduate Center as a special Earth Day Event on April 22, 2011.

The play recieved its world premiere production at Kansas City Repertory Theatre February 18 through March 17, 2012.

The New York premiere will be produced by the Public Theatre, as part of their Public Lab Series, from April 11-May 1.

Get tickets here!


Kansas City Reviews

  • Kansas City Metropolis: "...amusing, edifying, and ultimately maddening, which is also the point"
  • KC Stage:"Rating: 5 of 5... The real drama of The Great Immensity is our human response to the global issues we face... rush on down before it closes..."
  • The Pitch: "It's an overwhelming topic, global warming, but this show makes it both immediate and accessible."
  • Stage and Scream Kansas City:"The creative highlights of this production include Friedman’s songs, which are graced with clever lyrics and offbeat storytelling devices while remaining melodically infectious."
  • University News:"an entertaining blend of smarts, humor and emotions"


Kansas City Repertory Theatre Season Announcement

MTC's 7@7 Announcements

National Science Foundation Award Announcements



Above is the first video in The Civilians' Video Skype Interview Series, in which we are talking to people who are making a big difference in the environmental challenges that we all face through the arts, creative thinking, and taking action. The video above is our interview with Louie Psihoyos, Academy Award-winning director of The Cove.

Louie Psihoyos is an American photographer and documentary film director known for his still photography and contributions to National Geographic. Psihoyos, a licensed scuba-diver, has become increasingly concerned with bringing awareness to underwater life.

For more information, please visit:

Interview conducted by Alix Lambert. Alix Lambert is an artist, author and filmmaker. She is an Associate Artist of The Civilians and is conducting this ongoing series of interviews for The Great Immensity.

For more videos in the series, please click HERE!

To visit Polly's Vimeo page, please click HERE!
To follow Julie's Twitter account, please click

Check out Barro Colorado Island:

Click on any of the links below for more information on Churchill, Manitoba:

Explore the ship that gave the project its name:


Check out our music video series to songs by Michael Friedman from the show!

"Margin of Error"


"The Next Forever"

Here are a few episodes from our Skype Video Interview Series. More are available at The Great Immensity's Website!

Edward Morris co-founded The Canary Project, an organization dedicated to producing art and media that deepen public understanding of human-induced climate change and energizing commitment to solutions. Originally founded in 2006 as a project to photograph landscapes throughout the world where scientists are studying the impacts of climate change, The Canary Project has since supported diverse projects involving more than 30 artists, designers, writers, educators and scientists. Their focus is on cultivating research-intensive projects that contribute to knowledge building and are able to communicate that knowledge in a way that both respects complexity and inspires respect for life. For more information and to view some of the art that they have fostered, please visit The Canary Project's website.

Mathias Kessler is an Austrian-born artist currently living and working in New York. He creates photographs, video art, and installations often featuring large-scale representations of natural landscapes. His work is particularly ambitious due to the challenges of traveling to extremely remote areas, transporting large amounts of equipment, and capturing high-quality images that can be printed in large or panorama formats. Recent solo shows have been exhibited at the National Museum for Photography in Russia, GL Holtegaard Museum in Denmark, and the Volta Art Fair in New York. For more about his projects, please visit his website.

Environmentalist and photographer Kelly Poe documents landscapes inspired by letters from incarcerated ‘eco-terrorists’. Kelly Poe is a Los Angeles-based artist. She has exhibited her photographs around the world, in New York, Ghent, Athens, and Guadalajara, and here in Los Angeles. Writing on Poe's work has appeared in the New York Times, the L.A. Times, and Contemporary. She earned her MFA at CalArts in 2002 and her BFA at Otis in 2000.

Louie Psihoyos is an American photographer and documentary film director known for his still photography and contributions to National Geographic. Psihoyos, a licensed scuba-diver, has become increasingly concerned with bringing awareness to underwater life. In 2009, he directed and appeared in the feature-length documentary The Cove, which won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. For more, please visit: The Oceanic Preservation Society's website.

For more videos, visit our Youtube HERE or The Great Immensity's Vimeo HERE!