Archive for June, 2008


GTI Reports on Broadway Event

In a recently posted article on the Green Theater Initiative (GTI) web site, Michael Crowley reports on the event sponsored by Wicked producer David Stone entitled “It’s Easy Being Green.”

The keynote speaker at the event was Allen Hershkowitz, a true force in the environmental movement.

Some of the highlights from Crowley’s report:

• “Hershkowitz explained that the theatre community ‘needs to mimic the biological process in [our] approach to theatre.’”

• “Hershkowitz noted that we must review the supply chain for any of our company’s procurement or operations decisions and analyze how the choices we make can affect our production’s overall carbon footprint. By purchasing green versions of the products required for theatrical production, we can send a collective signal to the marketplace that Broadway has joined in fighting our global crisis.”

• “Mark Overton, Wicked’s Head Carpenter, discussed how the crew has been reclaiming about 28 lamps a month that would otherwise head to the landfill. He also noted that the design team has switch to LED lights where possible. The carpentry team has switched to using recycled oils, low-VOC paints, and natural cleaning products.”

• “Charlotte St. Martin, Executive Director of the Broadway League, announced that Nina Lannan, the Board Chair for the League, is developing an ad hoc committee to disseminate information and best practices for Broadway to go green. The committee will include producers, general managers, and theatrical designers. Melissa Wright of the Mayor’s Office announced that the city was in the process of putting together carbon inventories and energy analysis of the Broadway community.”

The article goes on to explain how many different areas of Broadway theatrical productions, from advertising to set builders are exploring ways to go green, as they dip their toes in the water of sustainability. It’s really quite encouraging to see this kind of effort on the part of Broadway — undoubtedly the leader in unsustainbility simply by virtue of its scope.


to reuse or invest greener?

In my shop (if you want to call it that — it still needs lot of improvement) I have a true bevy of stock paint from productions before my time with the company. While it’s a no-brainer what to do when I need lumber or hardware (I simply cannibalize old scenery, creating as much resusable stock in the process as I can), the use of toxins like paint is a trickier subject.

And so I pose the question: is it better to use the old (but still usable) paint, or ditch it and invest in less toxic paints? Keep in mind, I work for a children’s theater, and so much of the scenery and many of the props will be used and handled by kids. Some of them will even help work on the props as they are created, so exposure to toxins is not out of the question.

I’m still thinking about the pros and cons on this one, so if you have thoughts, post them.


Earth Matters On Stage

Thanks to a gentle Facebook reminder, I wanted to remind everyone about next year’s Earth Matters On Stage — especially now that they have a great site up and running online (which they didn’t when I first announced their call for proposals back in March).

The EMOS Ecodrama Playwrights Festival and Symposium will be held in May of 2009 at the University of Oregon in Eugene. They are still seeking both play submissions (deadline November 1, 2008) and symposium proposals (deadline January 1, 2009).


Green Theater: How-To: Policy

My writing on ecoTheater has enabled me to work out my ideas about creating a more sustainable way to produce theater as I go along — and it’s been a rather bumpy path. My bread and butter at the moment happens to be my work for a rather conventionally run, small, but productive and largely fulfilling children’s theater. So, my writing here has also helped me formulate the steps I can take within that organization to help it inch its way toward a greener model.

Along the way, I’ve been spending a small amount of my “company time” drafting an extensive environmental policy to be introduced and fully implemented (best case scenario) at a later date. I’m fortunate enough here to be surrounded by a small, open-minded staff that (to varying degrees) supports the overall notion of sustainability. It ranges from an office manager who takes every small green step with enthusiasm and interest to a development director who has encouraged me to keep her abreast of all my writing on green theater, and would like to have me tag along on meetings with donors who have a great interest in eco-responsible action.

My position with CTM has been a blessing in many ways (even putting aside that the PAD hired me just before I was to begin chemotherapy, and accepted my frequent absence during the first production I was to manage due to the harsh realities of cancer treatment), and one of them has certainly been the way it has exposed me to the idea of breaking new ground with a group of people (in this case the six members of the theater’s year-round staff) with whom you have never worked. It is the kind of theater in which folks of varying backgrounds, interests, and talents are put together in a small room and asked to not only produce high quality theater, but also run a youth-oriented training program, and do it all on a rather small budget. What you get is a lot of ideas, and a lot of baggage (both positive and negative) inadvertently brought to the table.

What this comes down to is the need to craft policy — policy that works for everyone at the table, because forcing things down throats is not only detrimental to the collaborative nature of producing theater, but also leads to resentment. Not a good way to move forward.

So, how do we do it? Well, Larry Fried and Theresa May, in their book Greening Up Our Houses, suggest the formation of something they call a “Habitat Committee,” which can develop the areas that need to be addressed, and how to address them. The benefit of such a committee, regardless of its name, is simple: policy crafted through consensus by those closest to the areas being affected.

But to reap this benefit, the committee must be made up of the people who will most be needed to implement it’s recommendations. Otherwise, (as I’ve said already) resentment will inevitably stew in the areas of the company that most need improvement — since folks will feel forced to change the way they work by people in other departments.

According to Fried and May in Greening Up Our Houses, the Habitat Committee should be authorized to:

1. assess the environmental problems of various departments

2. produce a plan that identifies certain short, mid, and long-range goals for each department

3. provide staff training or briefings to implement and coordinate new policies and practices

4. monitor the ongoing application of new policies and procedures, incorporating feedback from other staff and assessing the success of particular efforts

5. make adjustments to the plan as needed

The trick is having the good fortune to work in an environment where the idea of sustainability in theater production goes beyond the seemingly common head nodding that goes along with most of the necessary steps toward a more eco-responsible model of production. What I mean is that most of us in the theater are met with agreement when we bring up the idea of sustainability — it’s when we start taking the actual steps that we meet resistance (“it’s too expensive,” “it sounds nice, but it’s too esoteric,” “worrying about our environmental footprint is outside our mission,” etc.).

Fried and May also provide the above flow chart (which they call a metabolic chart displaying the “theatre organism) in order to help a Habitat Committee better asses the areas for improvement within a company. By reducing the inflow, and the toxicty of the inflow, theaters are better able to reduce the amount of raw materials and energy used in operations; and by subsequently reducing the outflow, materials are kept out of the waste stream and reduce the theater’s contribution to air and waterborne pollution.

Such a chart can be enormously helpful when sitting down to assess the areas that need to be addressed within an organization.

Policy is essential to initiating any sustainable program — it is essential to accomplish any of the ideas for greening up theater that I’ve discussed in this blog previously (costumes, lighting, the front office, etc.). Of course, individual staff members and department heads can take the bull by the horns and initiate impressive change within their department; but for such action to have a real effect on the overall operation of a company, and comprise significant change, there must be cooperation, and a cohesive plan for moving forward. It seems that in larger organizations, a committee such as Fried and May’s “Habitat Committee” would do the trick nicely. For smaller organizations, it may take just one strong individual that is willing to introduce policy to colleagues and be responsible for helping it to be implemented.



I haven’t been ignoring ecoTheater for the past few weeks. No. I’ve been on vacation — a very real, out of town, mostly out of touch-type vacation. And it was nice to get away. Eye opening in many ways, in fact.

One thing I did on vacation was begin seriously looking at an old book about the theater that I only recently found in a local bookstore here in Madison. It’s called Grassroots Theater: A Search For Regional Arts in America by the late Robert Gard. I was amazed to find that Gard was a professor of theater here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for years, beginning in the 1940’s through his death in the early 90’s (I believe). While on vacation we visited some good friends in Seattle toward the end, and one morning I sat in a coffee shop devouring the book. Just what was this old idea of Gard’s that I had somehow missed all these years (including during my college days, when I was supposed to be studying the damn theater!)? Did it fit with my idea of a new model, or did it lead somewhat more pointedly to the notion that the ideal theater (like the ideal democracy) is of the people, by the people, and for the people — which may mean that professional theater artists are superfluous?

As the NY Times posits that bigger is better I can’t help but feel more and more alienated by our theater, and my role in it. Speaking of his time in Alberta, Canada, and his clear inadequacy to represent the stories of the people there, Gard wrote that he “was a false window, a glass that gave back only a dim, shallow image.” A false window? Is that what theater artists are? Are we simply poor knock-offs of the real thing?

Okay, maybe this is just another of my half-baked ideas that make blogging the accessible, imperfect medium that it is. I could never hope to get such an open-ended, stream of consciousness bit of writing published in an reputable print publication. But there it is. It’s what I’m thinking about. And as I finish Gard’s very important book, I’m sure my thoughts will firm up and become more coherent.

Anyway, I’m back from vacation, and have hit the ground running. Keep reading.


Wicked producer to hold town hall meeting on green theater

According to a recent industry invitation forwarded to ecoTheater, the producer of Wicked has organized a “town hall meeting on making Broadway green.”

The meeting will feature Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and hailed in the press release as an “environmental adviser to the Oscars, the Grammys, Major League Baseball and the NBA.”

The invitation goes on: “Over the past few years, many industries have made strides to improve work practices and make changes that better our environment. We hope you will join us, and other members of our community, for an interactive industry-wide town hall meeting to discuss how we can all come together as an industry to affect change and become a leader in this movement.”

Sounds good to me. The meeting will take place at The Gershwin Theatre on June 10 from 12-1:30pm.

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

June 2008
« May   Jul »