Yearly Archives: 2008

Darwin and Havel

As man advances in civilization, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races. If, indeed, such men are separated from him by great differences in appearance or habits, experience unfortunately shews us how long it is, before we look at them as our fellow-creatures. Sympathy beyond the confines of man, that is, humanity to the lower animals, seems to be one of the latest moral acquisitions.

[I]n today’s multicultural world, the truly reliable path to coexistence, to peaceful coexistence and creative cooperation, must start from what is at the root of all cultures and what lies infinitely deeper in human hearts and minds than political opinion, convictions, antipathies, or sympathies – it must be rooted in self-transcendence:

Transcendence as a hand reached out to those close to us, to foreigners, to the human community, to all living creatures, to nature, to the universe.

Transcendence as a deeply and joyously experienced need to be in harmony even with what we ourselves are not, what we do not understand, what seems distant from us in time and space, but with which we are nevertheless mysteriously linked because, together with us, all this constitutes a single world.

Transcendence as the only real alternative to extinction.

See Darwin and Havel’s Unified Planet Theory By ANDREW C. REVKIN in his Dot Earth Column on

Fall Back: The End of Daylight Savings

A reminder to change your clocks back to Standard Time tonight, as it applies to you. As you relish your extra hour of possible sleep tonight (sorry Arizona) something to think about…

Along with others, an Australian Study shows that Daylight Savings Time actually wastes energy. While it may make it unnecessary to turn on your lights as early as you would otherwise, this is found to be more than offset by the use of climate control: heating in the morning (you don’t turn on your heat until you’re out of bed right?) when you wake up in the dark in cooler months, and cooling in the afternoon for the warmer months as people get home when it is still hot in the afternoon.

Especially with the incandescent bulb bans going into effect, 100w to light a room can not compare to the kilowatt hours and units of natural gas need to extend our climate controlled comfort.

For the Theater Artist, this matters less, you’re still going to be in the dark all day with power hungry lights running. The change just means that you’re leaving the theater in the dark for earlier rehearsals too. Your lights aren’t going anywhere either. As I am in tech myself, I’ll be thinking about this point.

I originally saw this article on Climate Progress, who are referring to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

Lights, Panels, Action!

While working at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, an outdoor theater in Los Angeles County with a regularly fantastic summer rep in a fantastic outdoor canyon setting, I met Kim Zanti. Amongst other titles, she is also a writer. This is an article she wrote for the Whole Life Times on The Electric Lodge. One of our partners in programs at the CSPA. Though, with the AEP, the lodge is rapidly becoming a hub of activity in the sustainable arts movement, this article gives an excellent history of where the lodge came from… a good way to understand where it is going.

Powered by the sun and amped by imagination, Venice’s Electric Lodge illuminates the community

by Kim Zanti

Robed in a white lab coat and trousers, a lone dancer gracefully crisscrosses a black box stage. He speaks of medical clinics, rectal examinations and disease, his words all the more surreal for their pairing with his ethereal dance. Gradually, his stream of narrative shifts our focus to a chronic patient we’re all familiar with, one whose air we foul, guts we eviscerate, skin we scar, fluids we contaminate. The dancer holds a stethoscope to a delicate, wire mesh model of a tree bathed in blue light. We wonder: Is the tree well? Are we well? Is there hope, doc?

In real life, the dancer, Dr. Joel Shapiro, would answer yes and invite you to join him on the patient’s road to recovery at Venice’s Electric Lodge. Powered entirely by the sun and the creative energies of hundreds of performing and visual artists, “The Lodge” is a place of transformation.


Critical elements of change…

This Post was originally posted to Mike Lawler’s ecoTheaer blog on May 8, 2007. We are reposting it here to share this ecoTheater classic with new readers while MIke continues to regain his health. You can read his blog about his ongoing battle with cancer, The “C” Word, by clicking here.

Everyday I think about this subject more, and everyday I try to talk to someone who might help me see it a little more clearly. Most recently, I had lunch with Natalie George and Michael Massey, a theater professor at St. Edward’s University in Austin. He is not an expert on this subject by any means, but just having the opportunity to speak with folks and get an idea of what they think is enormously helpful. Nowadays I even dream about green theater–and the question that keeps rolling around in my brain, persistent, nagging, is whether or not it’s even possible. And, if it is, do those in power (the artistic directors, the business managers, the board members) care enough to make it happen? Or, maybe that’s the wrong way of looking at it–the question really is: do they believe the issue is critical enough to influence the decisions they make about their mission, and their funding? I’m not sure. But I have come up with a rough list of the elements that are at the center of the dilemma, the things that must be scrutinized and addressed if any of us are to help curb the world’s destructive path toward catastrophic environmental and human health dead ends.

1) The building —
    The buildings that house the performing arts may be the most detrimental to the environment of all. According to the U.S. Green Building Council(USGBC), commercial buildings are responsible for 70% of the electricity load in the United States. Furthermore, the USGBC estimates that “if half of new commercial buildings were built to use 50% less energy, it would save over 6 million metric tons of CO2 annually for the life of the buildings—the equivalent of taking more than 1 million cars off the road every year.” Those numbers are staggering. What’s worse, there is only one performing arts facility in the entire country that has taken the steps necessary to reduce its impact on the environment (see ecoLogue, April 26, 2007). This is not for lack of newly constructed or renovated facilities–consider the Guthrie’s new spaces, for which they spent nearly $200,000 on “utilities” in 2005! If theater facilities did their part in reducing the negative role that buildings play in our lives, we would make enormous strides.

2) Theatrical lighting systems —
    Chris Coleman of Portland Center Stage (PCS) told me last month that the necessary lighting equipment for the new Gerding Theater made it difficult to meet the USGBC LEED Platinum rating. Other areas of efficiency were ramped up significantly on the project in order to offset the amount of energy required by the desired system. While theatrical lighting companies, such as Electronic Theatre Controls, Inc. (ETC), have made moves toward efficiency (witness ETC’s ever popular line of Source Four equipment), they have a long, long way to go. 

3) Material waste —
    This is a subject that has come up time and again in ecoLogue–even in its short life. The fact is, theatrical production revolves around a process of creation and subsequent destruction. So much effort is devoted to imagining, designing, and building theatrical scenery–and yet, very little (or so it would seem) goes into what happens to all of it once the final curtain has fallen on a production. And even those who do consider the demise of scenery, allowing it at times to weigh heavily on their minds (see May 3, “Is Waste Inherent in Theater Production?”), can only do so much. Remember, reuse and recycle come after the all important reduce. This must become the central word in theatrical production. The problem, of course, is our fear of limiting the artistic process. No artistic director in the world wants to tell his or her creative teams to limit themselves in order that they may reduce the waste generated by their productions. But, is there a time that artists must step forward and play a role in change, rather than merely using what they may to comment on it? Reducing the use of non recyclable materials alone would go a long way in reducing a theater’s waste. Conceiving of a way to reuse and store (safely–perhaps off site) scenery would be another.

4) Toxic materials —
    Just have a look at the ecoLogue entry from April 27 up there (“Monona Rossol and the toxic, unsafe theater we create”), and you may begin to understand the often toxic stuff that we theater artists work with on a regular basis. Actually, that entry doesn’t really go into detail, but suffice it to consider these fields: scenic carpentry (welding, working with foam of all sorts, adhesives, stains, finishes, et cetera), props (ditto), and costumes (including wigs, makeup, millinery, crafts and dye–all using a myriad of toxic chemicals). Of course, there are laws and regulations in place that dictate the safe use of these materials, as well as their proper disposal, but guess what? According to Monona Rossol of Arts, Crafts & Theater Safety (ACTS), most theaters don’t abide the law. As has been written here before, simply acting in accordance with OSHA and EPA regulations would help reduce harm to both the environment and theater artists themselves.

There are, to be sure, other areas that will affect the environment and human health in theatrical production, but I think the four listed above are the worst offenders.

R. Buckminster Fuller: THE HISTORY (and Mystery) OF THE UNIVERSE at Portland Center Stage

Check out R. Buckminster Fuller: THE HISTORY (and Mystery) OF THE UNIVERSE at Portland Center Stage. Sustainable Figures mixing with Sustainable Companies. You can see the trailer here:

R. Buckminster Fuller trailer

Having visited this company, contrary to what they say directly, there is a clear philosophical difference in the production here then in other places. It is in part due to the sustainability of Portland as a whole I’m sure, but living and working in a sustainable environment, here the Gerding Theatre at the Armory, has an impact in the the back of its inhabitants’ minds. In part it seems that everyone is just happier, but easy access to lots of natural light can do that. And here it would even seem that the content is conscious of the issues that this company’s home invokes. 

Willamette Week is currently running a contest in conjunction with PCS:

Together with Portland Center Stage and in celebration of R. Buckminster Fuller’s passion for the environment, Willamette Week is hosting a film shorts video contest.

Portland has been called “America’s top green city,” but it’s old news to us. With the highest bicycle commuter population the United States, most green buildings per capita and the toughest anti sprawl ordinance in the nation; it’s apparent that all Portlanders are making an effort to live sustainably.

Show us what sustainability means to you.

First Prize:
A $100 gift card to Kell’s Irish Pub
4 tickets to the PCS production of to R. Buckminster Fuller: The History and Mystery of the Universe
4 passes to the OMSI exhibit Mindbender Mansion

2 Runners up will receive:
A voucher good for a pair of tickets to any PCS production this season
$50 voucher to Kell’s Irish Pub

How to enter:
1. Shoot a video 30 seconds or less.
2. Upload your video to
3. Go to our contest channel at
4. Send us a message with your video attached by November 3.
5. We will post it to our channel for the world to see.

Submissions will be accepted from October 1 to November 3. The PCS Art Director and Willamette Week Stage Critic Ben Waterhouse will judge the videos and the winner will be announced on November 10. The winning video will be posted on and

Grounding the greenmuseum

As an online museum, we take form largely in 1’s and 0’s. We’ve even dissolved our office so we’re all working from home now. The artworks and the people making them and experiencing them firsthand are all around the world. At best, those are the physical manifestations of The gatherings we announce, the places we consult with, the artists and organizations we interlink. It’s all going on largely independent of us of course anyway. Butterfly wings and all that… But does this website have a physical impact on the world through the million+ people who have visited the site? Artists and parks and curators tell us we’ve help ed make projects possible. We also have a Calendar that comes out every year (please buy one, enjoy the art for a full year and help support our work – we earn a small percentage of sales).

The most grounded we get, perhaps, is when we collaborate with a museum or gallery space to curate a physical exhibition. So with that, we’re proud to announce Overlap in Green, a one night exhibition in San Francisco on November 8th, 2008. Please come by if you’re in the area. For those who live far away, we’ll use the exhibition as a start for an online version to share with everyone. Spreading the seeds online, may they find root in fertile soil to generate new iterations of sustainable somethingorothers. Hope the worms notice and smile.

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