Theater Ideas

[First, a side note: (wait, can you start with a side note?) I want to explain the way I spell “theater.” For years and years I was an re-er (that’s ARE-EEE-ER). Then I got a book contract and began punching the keys of my laptop to produce it. One of the first things my editor did was change “theatre” to “theater,” and so I got into the habit of spelling it that way–and, since I started this blog as I was in final revisions for that book, well, here I am a converted er-er (that’s EEE-ARE-ER). But anyway…]

Found two great sites/blogs yesterday in between working on some stuff for my “conventional” theater gig: first was Scott Walters and his blog called, simply enough, Theatre Ideas. The post that was at the time at the top of the heap, “Model: Make It Sustainable (Scenery)” caught my eye, of course, and introduced me to a book that had not shown up on my radar before: Carlisle and Drapeau’s Hi Concept – Lo Tech. I also discovered a link to Theatre Tribe.

Whether you’re a fringe theater artist, big university academic, or just wading through a gig with a theater that’s doing business as usual, either of these sites should be regular reads.

I’ll tell you what I took away from them: a nagging sense that it might just be impossible to create sustainable theater within the current paradigm of theater production. This was always my goal. Not because I think that the way most of us produce theater in this country is so dang lovable, but because I wanted to take a practical look at the thing and give conventional theater artists a way to achieve sustainability. While I still believe that this is important (and likely the best way to reduce theater’s contribution to ecological degradation and pollution), it seems that I would personally rather tackle theater more in the way that Walter and his Theatre Tribe propose. This quote appears in Daniel Quinn’s book, Beyond Civilization, and Walker has it on his blog’s main page (to remind us all of the brick wall we may be introducing our foreheads to in the theater):

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” —Buckminster Fuller

So, where does that leave me? Itching for a lower tech, community oriented, tribal theater that can still provide all the power and hope of the stage without producing some of its more unfortunate side effects. That’s where.

I know, I know. Some readers of Walter’s blog have put forth arguments about why a so-called tribal approach to theater production doesn’t work, but I tend to fall on Walker’s side on this one: if it isn’t meant to last, it won’t. And that’s okay. There’s always time for a new tribe.


6 Responses to “Theater Ideas”

  1. March 5, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Thanks for the shout, Mike. Glad to have you on board. By the way, I am a Wisconsin boy — lived southeast of Madison in Racine until I was 19 years old! Madison is a great town, and one that seems particularly suited to a theatre tribe, in my opiinion!

  2. March 5, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    It’s nice to have found you. By the way, I am NOT a Wisconsin boy, but my wife grew up here, so we decided to come. We’ve been here less than a year, and I’m still trying to figure out the theater scene.

  3. March 8, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Just found your site through Scott and I’m LOVING it. I have a set designer friend who’s interested in building an eco-friendly charter for several chicago theaters and we’re looking at environmental sustainability as a key strategy towards a more general sustainability of all theater resources, (also notably: time). I think the two things are related. Things as simple as sharing 4×8 platforms between theaters have been a time-saving trick of savvy TDs for a long time, and it also happens to be an environmentally friendly solution. What needs to happen is a little more coordination to find other avenues of resource-sharing between theaters… locally and nationally.

    I’ve been hammering at that question – how to create a new paradigm to make the existing model obsolete – for a while now, and for me the answer is beginning to coalesce. Some mini-ideas that are just iterations of a greater equation: theaters I’m working with are moving away from paper-based promotional materials and really juicing as much as we can out of web-based promotions, and entirely web-based collaboration.

    I’m also very involved with the national jobs listing site BackstageJobs.com. We’re working towards a sister site, BackstageExchange, which will be a place to share and promote craiglist-like listings for material goods across the country and regionally with the hope that saving props and sets and old lighting equipment from the dumpster will also save theaters a ton of money. Several vendors are getting in on the game as well to promote their lamp recycling programs.

    Looking forward to digging through your archives for more ideas. Applause.

  4. 4 Scott Kelly
    April 6, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Mike, one of my fellow grad students here at VA Tech sent me a link to your blog, and I’m really excited to see all the research you’ve done. Even more exciting is the prospect that a new book on more ecologically conscious theatre production methods may be on the way. I’ve read the Fried and May text, and while it’s an excellent start, much work (and updating) needs to be done.

    One area which I’d strongly recommend you look into is the semantics of eco-friendly terminology. “Sustainability” is an extremely loaded term, and I’m not sure it’s the best description of what you’re researching. Real sustainability isn’t actually possible, but other goals such as a “green theatre” “environmentally conscious” theatre, etc. may be. I’m still a novice in this area having taken only a few natural resources courses, but “sustainable” is a very tricky word.

  5. April 7, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    I agree that “sustainable is a very tricky word.” However, it’s one of the few I have found that best suits my intentions here on ecoTheater (others being green, eco, et cetera).

    I’m glad to hear one of my readers thinking critically about the words used to describe and promote a greener approach to theater production, and appreciate your thoughts. Believe me, I have thought a lot about what you call “the semantics of eco-friendly terminology.” The interesting thing for me is that you somehow believe that “eco-friendly” is somehow a less loaded term than “sustainable” — or at least your use of it implies this. They are all loaded down, and as fully subjective as all such media friendly terms are. What do they mean, anyhow? What I consider sustainable, you may not — what I consider eco-friendly or, (perhaps the most loose and subjective term of them all) green may be something either more stringent or something not at all meaningful for another person.

    Thanks for your thoughts, and keep reading.

  6. August 21, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Wow! After all I got a webbsite from where I can in fact obtain helpful information regarding myy study
    and knowledge.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

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
Performance Art Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Best Green Blogs


March 2008
« Feb   Apr »

%d bloggers like this: