Posts Tagged ‘green theater

23
May
09

Theater Matters – notes from Earth Matters on Stage 2009 part I

Okay, so I can’t keep my nose out of it…

I’m here in beautiful Eugene, Oregon attending the 2009 Earth Matters on Stage: A Symposium on Theatre & Ecology at the University of Oregon. Last night was the official beginning of the event with keynote speaker Una Chaudhuri giving a talk on what she has dubbed Zooesis, or the discourse of animals (or, rather non-humans) in the media.

As I emerged from the talk I looked at Ian Garrett of the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts and Moe Beitiks of the Green Museum Blog and said: “I’m not smart enough to be here.” Which is to say if the opening moment of EMOS 2009 is a reliable indicator, it will be a highly academic affair. Chaudhuri was followed by obligatory phases of mingling with strangers (not my forte) while smugly observing the corn-based disposable cups, paper plates and napkins, an engaging, often heart wrenching (though also quite academic) play by EM Lewis called Song of Extinction, and the most structured post show discussion (aka talkback) I’ve ever participated in, led by Cal State LA professor and playwright Jose Cruz Gonzalez. Part of me thought, “oh, I shouldn’t have stuck around for this.” It had the effect of stifling the power of the play, and its masterly intertwined themes. I jotted on my program during the talkback this tidbit: “Robbing the visceral through incessant deconstruction.” But that’s my own problem, right?

More later…

06
May
09

coming back at life

It’s been three months since I had major surgery to remove half of the lymph nodes in my abdomen (about twenty) to clear out the final vestiges of my cancer — a thing that no longer lurks within me, but has forever changed me physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Some for the better, some for the worse.

I’m back in my life now, and I’ve been thinking a lot about ecoTheater and how it might come back, how it might fit itself into the new life I’m trying to forge for myself. Many times over the last several months I’ve thought about writing a post about this or that, and aside from a couple that I couldn’t let lie (such as the passing of Rosemary Ingham), I just couldn’t figure out what to write. Then the stories, the news, the ideas kept piling up, and I couldn’t figure out how to get myself back into the room of green theater — the door to which I like to think I helped pry open a bit. And then, the other day I read this:

White Way Gets ‘Green’ Theater

Henry Miller’s Theater, the first newly built Broadway house in more than 20 years — and the first so-called green theater on the Great White Way — has completed major construction and is set to open in September with Roundabout Theater Company’s revival of the musical “Bye Bye Birdie.”

Now, this was not exactly news to me. I’d heard about this project last year, and probably wrote about it on ecoTheater at the time. But it answered the question of ecoTheater for me. This green theater movement has moved beyond me — it’s moved into a realm of theater business that I think is fundamentally flawed, for I do not believe there can be such a thing as a “green” theater on Broadway. Not the Broadway that exists now. No way. You can use all the recycled materials and nifty LED lobby lighting you want, but it won’t change the underlying mode of production (I mean, seriously, Bye Bye Birdie?? As a friend noted on Facebook, reviving a fifty year old musical does not count as recycling). That is what needs to be fixed. Not just because it’s environmentally unsustainable, but rather because it is also financially unsound, utterly lacking in community interaction, culturally numb, and creatively depraved.

Whoa, Mike — them’s fightin’ words, you say? Well, maybe so. And believe me, I recognize that we live in an imperfect world, and the steps that Roundabout has taken are good ones. It’s better than doing nothing, that’s for sure. But I don’t think I can continue to expand my greenList by adding Roundabout’s name, or other similar organizations that meet one very narrow definition of eco-responsible theater. You simply cannot put Mo’olelo and Roundabout in the same basket. It doesn’t work, because one company is operating on a much smaller but infinitely broader scale, while the other is a borderline case of greenwashing.

The scope of ecoTheater was always meant to be wide and inclusive. But now, I must focus my energy more directly on what I think matters — what I think works. I believe my time will be better spent on my own efforts here in the little old Midwest, and leaving the up to the minute reportage of the major happenings in the “movement” to others. As I let ecoTheater continue to rust, I will instead be working on these projects…

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Wisconsin Story Project

As some of you may recall, I started on the path to putting my creativity where my mouth is with the Cancer Stories Project — a connection between my life with cancer and my passion for creating a better model of theater production. Eventually CSP morphed into something much bigger that my co-founders and I have dubbed Wisconsin Story Project. It is a company that aims to follow the path of “solving for pattern,” a Wendell Berry idea that I first wrote about here on ecoTheater many moons ago when describing Mo’olelo in California. WSP hopes to solve for pattern because it is about more than just creating green theater, it’s about creating theater in a way that addresses all of the pressing issues and concerns of our community. It’s about connecting on a local level. And I’d like to think it is a company that will someday be worthy of someone’s greenList somewhere.

Madison Arts Production Cooperative

Recently, a very sad but telling thing happened here in Madison, Wisconsin: the forty year old LORT theater, Madison Repertory Theatre, closed it’s doors for good, laying off it’s entire staff and leaving truckloads of equipment and theatrical inventory in a handful of locations throughout town. When the company I work for, Children’s Theater of Madison, got wind of the impending auction and the apparent failure of the hired auctioneer to understand the value of the Rep’s stock, we set to work on a proposal to raise funds to keep the equipment and inventory in Madison in a way that would continue to make it available to arts organizations in the area.

One day my boss, Producing Artistic Director Roseann Sheridan, called me and said, “Remember when we were talking about what might happen to the Rep’s shop and you said you thought a co-op facility would be great? Can you write that idea up in a proposal and have it for me tomorrow morning?”

I took a deep breath, and started writing. I called my idea the Madison Arts Production Cooperative. The proposal sounded good to both the sellers (Madison Rep) and the people who could make it happen financially. Thanks to a generous (anonymous) donation, we were able to purchase the entire production inventory of the decades-old company, keeping it together, and giving us the opportunity to make it all available to the Madison arts community in a way that it has never been before.

The (Book) Project

Writing a book is not easy. Selling a book is even more difficult. I know this from experience. But that has not yet deterred me from my plans to write (or co-write) the next book about green theater. I have spoken to several people about this project, and soon I hope to have a more complete understanding of how this project may take shape. It is certainly a topic that will bring me back to ecoTheater to share news.

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I’ll also continue to write on the subject of green theater for print publications whenever I can. I recently published articles on the subject in Theatre Bay Area and DramaBiz. And I will probably poke my head back in the ecoTheater door from time to time to rant or point out something I find particularly interesting to the topic.

Later this month, I will be attending the University of Oregon’s Ecodrama Festival and Symposium (at least the first weekend), and will write about the event for Dramatics. Ecodrama is hosted by Theresa May, a hero of green theater that I have had the privelige of interviewing for ecoTheater before, and co-author of Greening Up Our Houses.

And staying up to date on the green theater movement won’t be hard, as I’m sure most of you know by now. Since ecoTheater first showed up on the world wide web nearly three years ago, a lot has happened — and I was fortunate to have a hand in some of it. The best resources for staying up to date, and learning more about greening the theater are:

The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts

The Green Theater Initiative

The Ashden Directory

And check out the ecoLinks over on the right hand side of this page too.

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Oh, and one last thing…

Thanks to all of you who have supported me and ecoTheater over the last few years — especially in my most difficult times. Your kind words were always sincere, heartfelt, and more appreciated than you can ever know or understand.

Thank you to Ian Garrett, Gideon Banner, Robert Butler, Kellie Gutman, Seema Sueko, Scott Walters, Michael Casselli (who helped provide ecoTheater with its most popular day ever!) and so many more of you for continually encouraging the debate and information I tried to provide on ecoTheater. With folks like you out there, hope remains.

04
Dec
08

In the Audience

I’ve worked in theater in some form or another since high school. I have had a bad habit throughout my life in theater of being the type who says (or at least thinks) “I don’t want to go watch theater, I see so much of it from backstage, from the booth, I see it in rehearsals all day long…” So, I don’t sit in the audience much.

Now, because of the illness that blindsided me over a year ago, I really feel like a spectator sitting in the audience watching the future of green, eco-responsible theater rushing by in flashes. It’s difficult to do. So much has happened in the last few months, and ecoTheater has missed it. People close to me will roll their eyes when they find that as I write this lament I am sitting in a hospital room in Indianapolis waiting for my second and final round of high dose chemotherapy to commence. “Who cares about green theater?” they will ask.

I won’t lie — it isn’t that difficult to realize that I’ve missed out on reporting on the big Broadway initiative, supported as it is by the mayor of New York City, or the up and coming Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts (CSPA) (founded and driven by Ian Garrett, a regularly mentioned activist on ecoTheater), or the fast approaching Earth Matters on Stage (EMOC) at the University of Oregon, or, or, or…

I mean, it’s easy enough to see that there are bigger things to consider in my life right now. But, what can I say? For once, I hate being just a spectator. It’s like sitting through hours of rehearsal, not saying a word to anyone, and not participating in any way in the production.

For now, I have taken a leave of absence from my job with CTM and have done very little “work” of any kind in the last month or so. The only project I have spent time on is the Cancer Stories Project, hopefully the first stage work for the still-being-founded Wisconsin Story Project (WSP), which I hope to be a new model of theater that will take bits and pieces from many idea-makers, heading towards not just ecologically sound theater production, but also aiming to be a model of theater that solves for pattern (or here).

Who knows? Perhaps one day ecoTheater will simply morph into a blog tracking the progress of WSP, and how we’re doing our best to stay green, while tackling other issues that plague today’s so-called regional theater.

But no matter what I’ll be back here writing soon. So, don’t forget about me…

22
Aug
08

The Guardian asks, “is the Fringe bad for the environment?”

Writing in his blog, theater & performing arts, yesterday, the Guardian’s Chris Wilkinson writes “there is a new colour seeping into the politics of this year’s fringe — and it’s distinctly green.” But, aside from works with clever titles like Global Warming is Gay, Wilkinson admits that the subject was hardly touched at the Edinburgh Festival — and certainly not in a way that he thought adequate, considering how prevalent the idea of sustainability is today.

“Ultimately,” Wilkinson writes of playwright Ian Heggie’s work, “the comic form for the piece sits uncomfortably with its subject matter. For much of the time Heggie’s humour relies on some highly imaginative scatological references which, while funny in themselves, do not really illuminate the play’s politics.”

For a less direct, but decidedly more meaningful approach, Wilkinson notes that The Caravan, a “verbatim play” based on testimony from those affected by last year’s floods may be the clearest piece on the subject of the environment.

Check out Wilkinson’s blog — it’s worth a look.

15
Aug
08

LEDs Magazine on the promise of the Light Emitting Diode

In the April 2008 issue of LEDs Magazine (yes, I just discovered this article — when did you catch it?), Noah Davis writes that “there are few good alternatives to the beam control provided by conventional lighting fixtures in the theatre.” And then he proceeds to explain it all to us — why it is the way it is, how conventional lighting works and doesn’t work, and why LEDs will help save the world.

Davis notes that extending lamp life nearly indefinitely (conventional life: 300 – 1200 hours; LED life: 100,000+), eliminating the need for swapping gel in instruments, and lower lamp temperature are just a few of the “attractive” benefits of LED fixtures. However, Davis also notes that while there have been several LED instruments introduced for theatrical use, “none have the beam control that theatrical fixtures such as the Leko and Fresnel have.”

But wait. According to Davis, the only LED fixture on the market that comes close to providing what a theatrical lighting designer needs is the Selador X7. The instrument from Selador “uses a seven-color system to achieve a wide spectrum of colors that include the pastel range,” writes Davis. It is a strip light type instrument, and has seen competition since its introduction now that Altman is producing a similar unit called the Spectra Cyc.

But here is what I think is the key part of the article:

“The ideal LED-powered theatrical lighting fixture would not just save energy; it would save labor costs in several ways. Lamp life could be extended far beyond the hour rating of a standard theatre fixture, saving lamp replacement labor and the associated trouble shootinig time. If an LED fixture had a color-mixing method that could achieve the color range of gel, there would be no need for the labor expense of color changes. The heat generated by dozens of lighting fixtures would not compete strenuously with the air conditioning, therefore saving energy costs. Another cost-saving benefit of LED fixtures is the elimination of conventional dimmers. LED fixtures could have efficient on-board dimming that only requires line voltage and a control signal.”

The LED is on its way.

11
Aug
08

Odds and Ends

Man I’m swamped. I hate to start a post (again) with excuses, but seriously. How did this happen?

In honor of my hectic life, this post will be a hodgepodge of stuff I’d like to write about in more detail, but instead will mention in brief in hopes of writing more later…

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In her August Editor’s Note Live Design editor Marian Sandberg asks “isn’t it about time we really make a concerted effort, both professionally and personally to ‘go green?'” The impetus for this green note is a short piece in the issue by Robert Usdin of Showman Fabricators unremarkably entitled “How Green is Green?”

(Sometimes I wonder how envious the other other colors must feel about our almost arbitrary use of “Green” to describe all of this — aren’t yellow, red, blue, brown equally natural colors? I mean, our planet is predominantly blue, right? But wait, I digress…)

I can’t tell you how broad my smile was as I read Sandberg’s “note.” It’s quite encouraging, knowing that other such entertainment magazines (like Stage Directions) also have editors that are concerned about this stuff. Of course, it’s one thing to have writers and editors spouting off about how crucial it all is, and quite another to have the folks out there doing the brunt of the work getting on board too. That’s where Usdin and Showman Fabricators comes in.

Although Usdin gets his short piece off to a jokey start, he moves on quickly to introduce the Environmental Management System (EMS) that Showman has in place. Unfortunately, he describes it only very briefly as a “detailed roadmap, structured in two parts, charting a course for personnel to act green.” He then explains (again too briefly) that the first part of the EMS “outlines best practices,” while the second part “provides clients with solid options to greatly lessen the environmental impact their projects have.”

While it’s a bit disappointing that Usdin goes into little detail about his company’s green program, the fact that he is in the pages of Live Design introducing the subject is fantastic. He spends the remainder of the piece introducing some steps the entertainment industry has taken in a green direction, including the town hall meeting sponsored by Wicked producers, and a few others that I haven’t noted here on ecoTheater, including:

•Broadway theaters converting marquees to LEDs, switching to CFLs, and upgrading HVAC systems

The Broadway League sponsoring a committee to recommend green changes

Usdin mentioned many more that dealt with television and film, and LDI panels as well.

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In the world of LED fixtures, I also took notice of a new High End Systems product in the August issue of LIve Design. It’s called Showpix, and LD describes it as “a combination LED wash light and graphic image display fixture.” The automated fixture uses 127 3W LEDs and has an output of 24,000 RGB lumens.

Admittedly, I’ve never been much of a gearhead — an almost derogatory statement in the world of tech theater — but I am extrememly excited about the race toward LED domination. It’s coming…

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The July/August issue of DramaBiz Magazine had something on page 27 that caught my eye too: In Ticketing.

For every ticket sold, In Ticketing claims to plant one tree to help offset the impact of its core business. They also offer an entire line of tickets made with alternative materials such as hemp, flax, and recycled stock. This line of environmentally friendly tickets uses soy-based inks, and chlorine-free paper.

Another way to keep your operations green.

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SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT

Don’t forget to look for my essay on the green theater movement in the September issue of American Theatre

And (if I get it in on deadline) my first article in what I hope to be a series on green theater topics in the LDI issue of Stage Directions!

05
Jun
08

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
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