Archive for February, 2008


Walking the talk

Back in October, as I was going through chemo, I took a chance and accepted a job here in Madison as production manager for a small children’s theater called Children’s Theater of Madison (CTM). When my wife and I moved to Madison last summer, I had no illusions of pursuing work in the theater, since the city is relatively small and has a very small local theater community, consisting of mostly community-type theater organizations. I planned to focus more on my theater writing here, taking on ecoTheater as my primary task, and even flirted with the idea of going back to school to earn a graduate degree in Theater Education so that I could bring sustainable theater into the academic arena, where I believe it must get a foothold if we are to make any sort of dent in the professional world.

But then, this job opportunity fell into my email box one day. The company has been around since the sixties, but has spent the last decade or so floundering, and financially bled itself to near death just a few years ago. In the Fall, the board made the inspired decision to hire Roseann Sheridan as the Producing Artistic Director to get the place back into shape–both artistically and financially. And Roseann was kind enough to give me the opportunity to join her staff to help make that happen (knowing that I would spend at least the first two months of my time with CTM undergoing cancer treatment). I was excited by the prospect for many reasons, and not just because it gave me the option to continue my work as a theater practitioner, rather than merely as an observer and critic–it also was a chance to dive into the Madison theater community and be a part of the kind of theater I can really believe in, one that is deeply involved in the city, and in education.

There was a small problem, of course. Was I ready to take on a position that I knew could put me in an awkward position with regards to my desire to create a more sustainable theater? CTM is a small operation, and has a limited budget and resources. Plus, no matter how forward thinking its leaders or board may be, I knew it was going to be an uphill battle to try to institute greener practices. I found myself up against the wall I had always believed presented the worst obstacle to greening up theater production: money. I recalled nervously the statement that Michael Casselli of New York Theatre Workshop (NYTW) made to me when I pressed him on this issue last year: “That argument is cynical and very counterproductive for the long term ideal,” he told me. “Not only for the industry, but for the planet itself.” Casselli also enjoys the full support of the NYTW administration on his attempts at sustainability. He is, in essence, preaching to the choir. But not everyone–including me–has that luxury. So, what are we to do? Try anyway.

And so I have. I must continually remind myself that I have only been with the company for a handful of months, and am currently at work on only the second production I’ve done with them. Helping CTM become more sustainable will take time. Lots of time. But, I am in the position to make it happen–or, at least, get it close.


A New(er) Beginning

Well, lookee here. I’m back.

As you may recall, back in late August, I was diagnosed with cancer, and life took an unexpectedly different course. Suddenly, there were things that mattered, and things tha, well, didn’t matter as much. This blog was one of them, as was my entire focus on green theater, and my correspondence and burgeoning relationships with those people deeply involved and active in the green theater movement that is slowly taking hold in pockets here and there (mostly on the coasts — with me here in the midwest!). I started a new blog that seemed more crucial called The C Word, and did my best to keep writing through what was undoubtedly the shittiest trials I’ve ever gone through in my life — namely, chemotherapy. There were other dark valleys as well being experienced, especially the true realization of my mortality while only in my early thirties (okay, maybe early mid-thirties). It hasn’t been fun, but I’ve learned a lot, and (as far as this blog and part of my life is concerned) I have begun to emerge on the right side of cancer with no less passion for the green theater movement — and no less hope for what role I may play within it.

A lot has happened too. Especially, I think, concerning our friend Ian Garrett out in California. He’s managed to position himself quite well, and at the moment appears to be the individual with the most potential for affecting change in the theater community in this country. That’s not to say that there aren’t organizations still out there making progress, but Ian has seemingly stuck his nose right into the middle of one of the largest producing theater organization in the country: The Center Theatre Group (CTG) in Los Angeles. Ian received the CTG’s Richard E. Sherwood Award in November, including a $10,000 grant to study how to create theater in a sustainable manner. And what a study that will be. Perhaps Ian will give theater artists the world over something to chew on — and green practices that can be applied in theatrical production too.

In other news, those of you paying the slightest attention may have noticed that no article on green theater ever appeared in American Theatre. Well, shit. Unfortunately, between my illness, and the magazine’s seeming inability to approach the topic I was writing on in a way they felt comfortable with, the piece faltered, fell apart, and left me with a deal to create another piece for the magazine that will leave reporting the facts behind, and bring forth the sort of no nonsense writing I’m better known for here. I’ll keep you posted on that one.

So, welcome back to ecoTheater. I’m here to stay this time.

what’s in a color?

"It should be about different kinds of symbols than the color green—wind farms, solar, renewable-energy laboratories, those things that are symbolic of the new energy economy. People think that we overuse the concept of green, and it could become trite in its expression.”
“This idea about green in a lot of people’s minds still conjures up this notion of a fringe or something that’s out-there. It doesn’t inspire this notion of a new America. It just seems more substantive than a color.” - Colorado governor Bill Ritter, Jr. in The New Yorker
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February 2008