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London’s “Green Theatre” Plan

As I read through London’s recently released plan of action for their theaters, I kept asking myself how the climate (and I don’t mean the weather kind) in London — or Europe in general — allows such things to happen. I know that NYC mayor Bloomberg has taken steps to encourage a greener Broadway, but to my knowledge nothing at the level of London mayor Johnson’s report would happen here in the States. At least not this quickly, this comprehensively…I just don’t see it.

In short, I’m amazed with the document they produced, and the related “Green Theatre Calculator 2008” (download your own excel copy here), which is a great tool for theaters everywhere. Thank you London.

I could go on and on about this report, but instead I’ll hit some highlights, and strongly encourage you to download a copy and study it — especially the “practical actions.”

  • 35% of London theater’s carbon emissions come from “front of house” operations, including heating and cooling
  • 9% of the emissions are the result of “stage electricals”
  • The entire London theater industry has a carbon footprint “roughly equivalent” to the energy use of nearly 9,000 homes
  • The report advocates factoring “equipment energy costs” into production budget
  • An appendix to the report lists the top actions that theaters can take, including:
  1. Switch off stage lights when not in use
  2. Reduce energy use in exterior lighting
  3. Implement energy management program
  4. Minimize travel emissions

Again, this post barely scratches the surface of the report. Read it yourself. If we all manage to implement a fraction of its suggestions, and are inspired by one of its case studies, we will push green theater in America nearer to true sustainability.


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.

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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