Back in April I spoke with Monona Rossol. That conversation made a big impression on me, and she raised several excellent points about the difficulty in going green in theater without a community of theater artists grounded in a solid theatrical education–both in the artistic sense, and the practical sense. She was emphatic about the awful lack of practical education, especially for tech theater students. The trouble, Rossol warned, is that so many college educated theater artists have not been properly trained in the safe handling and use of all the dangerous things encountered in the theater. And so, it is this lack of practical training that comes to mind and gives me pause when I think about Ian Garrett’s attempt at developing a course on sustainable theater at CalArts.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for his plan. But I fear that it will be disproportionately grounded in theory–in the idea, the feel-good idea, of sustainability–rather than the practical nuts and bolts of making it really happen. I don’t know that this is fair or accurate as of yet, but I want to make a point: if we are to really aim at sustainable, green, ecologically sound theater production, then we must–must, must, must–approach it from a practical standpoint rather than a theoretical one. I have a feeling that Garrett is with me on this, and I’m sure if he reads this before I interview him on Monday he will be disappointed to see that I have doubted his efforts. (Sorry, Ian, I’m not really doubting, just thinking on the page)
Anyway, Garrett is in the process of developing the course, and you can view his efforts here.
He has a lot of good ideas, and I have high hopes for the course too. One thing he has going for him is that he is an MFA candidate pursuing both lighting design and producing. His background in lighting will certainly help him look at the problem from a technical standpoint. “We’re trying to look at sustainability in theater as a revolution in process,” Garrett says. “There is the Cradle to Cradle slogan that ‘less bad is still bad,’ and so we want to explore to see how we can change all of our production processes from the ground up.” But Garrett knows that at the end of the day, it is still just a classroom experience. “Will we implement them,” he asks. “I hope so,” he says, “but thats the hardest part, isn’t it?”
Yes, I suppose it is. But, it’s also the most important.