Deliberative Theatre Poll Highlights Lack of Trust in Marcellus Debate

And from eco-horror films to a playwright's take on a topic that has a number of people scared about environmental consequences: deep shale drilling. A performance called "Managing Marcellus" will be broadcast this week on public TV in Pittsburgh. The play is part of an effort to understand public attitudes and understanding of drilling. The Allegheny Front's Ilana Yergin has more.

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Transcript

HOST OPEN: And from eco-horror films to a playwright's take on a topic that has a number of people scared about environmental consequences: deep shale drilling... A performance called "Managing Marcellus" will be broadcast this week on public TV in Pittsburgh. The play is part of an effort to understand public attitudes and understanding of drilling. The Allegheny Front's Ilana Yergin has more.

Audio from performance:
Hello? I have a question about Marcellus Shale drilling, can I talk to someone?
Hello. I'm a paid spokesperson.
I'm up for re-election.
And I am against Marcellus Shale drilling.
I'm just like you. I don't know anything.
Is there someone else I can talk to?
NO

YERGIN: That's a clip from the Deliberative Theatre performance: Managing Marcellus. It's part of the Program for Deliberative Democracy, a project to see how people feel about topics once they're engaged and informed. Playwright Shannon Deep got into something called deliberative polling in college. First, people take a baseline poll about how they feel about a topic. Then, they read background information, and talk with experts. Then they're polled again.

This poll focused on, you got it, the Marcellus Shale drilling industry. The topic of deep shale drilling in the Marcellus has caused a lot of uproar in Pennsylvania and elsewhere over the past few years. One of the big concerns, is the impact all this drilling will have on the state's environment and wildlife. Deep tried to address these concerns in the play.

In the 20-minute show, the audience sees stereotypes of the usual suspects in the Marcellus drilling debate. There's an industry rep. An environmentalist. A politician, a landowner and one very confused and concerned citizen.

CUT:
You know the industry has every right to be here and they are trying to do this as safely as possible. They've complied with more regulation than any other state with natural gas drilling?
Is that really true?
That's a fact.
Oh it's your fact.
His fact? A fact's a fact isn't it?

YERGIN: Deep says in writing the play, she wanted to convey that in the Marcellus debate--over whether fracking is good or bad--people just don't trust each other. She raised awareness of the different issues and educated the audience by having the characters question each other's motives and data.

DEEP: The government didn't trust the industry, and it didn't trust the people to represent themselves and the people didn't trust the government to represent them accurately and they certainly didn't trust the industry not to screw this up.

YERGIN: The play is part of WQED public television's yearlong effort in public education about the Marcellus. Other groups involved in putting on the play and conducting the poll include The Unseam'd Shakespeare Company and Pittsburgh CORO Center for Civic Leadership.

For The Allegheny Front, I'm Ilana Yergin.


HOST: WQED, one of the event's sponsors will be airing the performance, as well as the accompanying panel discussion on Oct. 31 at 7:30 p.m. Poll results will be made public at PopCityMedia.com.