Photos by Don Ipock, Denise Applewhite, Michael S. Nolan, Richard Termine, 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?

"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 from the play 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!

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

Funding for THE GREAT IMMENSITY has been made possible by the Puffin Foundation.

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

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: Andrea 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 was produced by the Public Theatre, as part of their Public Lab Series, from April 11-May 1.


New York Reviews

  • New York Times: "What’s truly enticing in “The Great Immensity” is hearing such sentiments expressed in the vivifying context of musical numbers."
  • The Huffington Post: "Steve Cosson, who founded The Civilians in 2001, not only directs this piece of superior work, but has also written it based on the group's research into the issue. And believe you me, he hasn't settled for a dry polemic. Instead, he couches -- you could say he disguises -- his dire warnings in a tale of suspense built around a global climate conference in Paris just days away."

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"


National Science Foundation Award Announcements

Other Reviews



“How do we bring the world’s attention to a problem which can, literally, kill us all, yet seems to have no immediate impact on our lives? It is a measure of The Civilians’ ambition that they are willing to take on this challenge.” Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director at The Public Theatre

“The Great Immensity was one of those shows that sticks with you. It was funny and alarming while telling a damned good story. Illuminating the desperate straits of climate change we are leaving our children through the eyes of those children was very ingenious and ultimately very moving.” Amy Larkin, Author, Environmental Debt: The Hidden Costs of a Changing Global Economy

“The Great Immensity was definitely a sobering and shocking experience about the realities of climate change. The beautiful Cadence of this particular play was that it was vested in hopes and dreams of a better world, ideology against all odds. People/Critics would rather dilute their sense of personal responsibility than face a contrasting reality that directly challenges their way of life. The Great Immensity challenges you to flip the switch on a sinking ship and get active to save what we have now or at least prepare for the coming tomorrow. This play has moved me greatly, being on the front lines of the Tarsands expansion and watching the devastation of our ecosystem and our indigenous way of life. I just want to say thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for bringing these issues to life. It's something tangible, something people will talk about, something to get the dialogue moving forward.” Gitz Crazyboy, Indigenous Canadian Climate Activist from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation

“We tell stories so that we can understand things.  We tell stories so that we can connect. We tell stories so that otherwise inexpressible things can make sense to a theater filled with complete strangers. I felt, in the moments after leaving The Public, a terrible responsibility.” Elizabeth Seldin, Audience Member

“Amazed by The Civilians' The Great Immensity. A vital, essential work of ensemble theater that is too powerful to be ignored.” Andrew Cornelius, Audience Member


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!

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!