Keeping Up

I’m such a bad blogger. Real bloggers are crazy, even manic, about their blogging–daily rants about all sorts of stuff that keep their readers coming back for more day after day after day. Okay, I tell myself, work with what you’ve got: intermittent inspiration/information. I hate to climb up onto my blog podium without something interesting and meaningful to contribute–and in all honesty, I frequently find many blogs (even those I think are fantastic resources and deep wells of wisdom and practical information) sometimes take it all too far, ranting endlessly on fruitless topics, sometimes in the interest, it seems, of merely picking a fight.

The thing is, I envision ecoTheater as a useful tool more than anything. A place where interested, curious theater practitioners can come and find out how to make their operations more sustainable as well as what areas of theater production are in most need of improving.

So, today I thought I’d relay an anecdote about how hard it can be to “green up.”

Our offices at the Children’s Theater are very small. About 350 square feet for five year-round staffers. Until this week, they were painted two shades of blue, with some red highlights on exposed conduit. It felt like working inside some kind of circus igloo, and it had to change–especially because of the natural light situation in the space. We really needed warmer colors to bounce some of that light around our cramped quarters. So, the search for a paint bid fell in my lap. I dutifully solicited three bids from conventional painters, and then contacted a local guy who runs a small outfit called Eco Painting.

His bid, of course, was the highest, but I knew that I wanted him to get the gig–for several reasons. I offered him a trade in the form of program advertising to see if we could get his bid down to a level closer to the other bids. He agreed to a $150 cut in his fee for an ad in the program for our next show, in April. This still didn’t make him the low bid. There were two other very attractive bids. The problem was they entailed putting paint on the walls that not only would not be good for the environment, but were really going to suck for those of us working in the office–especially for the foreseeable future.

The Producing Artistic Director of CTM understood my position intellectually, and agreed with it on the grounds that the decision would impact the health of the staff and any visitors (including kids) to the office or the classroom/studio in the next room. But she had a hard time agreeing to the higher ticket price, since she was brought on board in the Fall in part to keep the company solvent–something it had a problem with in the past.

Eventually, she came around, and I kept my fingers crossed. See, I had sort of gone to bat for this guy and his eco company, and hoped his product would live up to the boss’s standards.

As it turns out, the office looks great now, and the painter did a great job (even though he ended up charging a bit more than his bid!). But when I think about how much effort it took to see this non-production project through I wince a little when considering the issues ahead in my battle to green up theater in my little corner of the world.


In other news, I was contacted recently by a man named Thomas Davis, who runs Greensleeves Garment Care on Long Island. He says: “I am a committed environmentalist from way back, having been at the first Earth Day, and started Greensleeves with the belief that we can provide superior cleaning without poisonous chemicals and with minimal impact on the environment.” Sounds like a good idea to me. And it is an area of theatrical production that I am aware of as a problem, but not one that I have addressed here on ecoTheater. Graves admits that he is trying to drum up business among NYC’s costumers, and that he is “trying to get the word out to wardrobe supervisors, producers, etc.” But there are some marketing ploys that I can go along with. Imagine if those of us in the entertainment industry started taking our work-related business to companies that not only care about the state of the environment (not to mention social justice), but whose business model actually makes a difference in pollution, ecological degradation, and human health? Green costume cleaning is certainly in that category, and seems a simple enough way for all of us to take a small step in the right direction. Graves also maintains a blog. If you’re in NY, check it out–if not Greensleeves, than a similar green cleaner at least.


1 Response to “Keeping Up”

  1. March 14, 2008 at 11:07 am

    hi mike –

    Hope all is well — couple updates: I was just interviewed by LMDA Review for a green theater article to be printed in their April issue (i think)… also, i’m working with DramaBiz Magazine and scenic designer David F. Weiner to do a “green webinar” sometime within the next month. Will keep you posted as details get finalized.


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“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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