Yearly Archives: 2009

May 21-31: Earth Matters on Stage, Eugene, OR

The mission of Earth Matters on Stage is to nurture connection and collaboration among artists and scholars who share an ecological sensibility.
 
The purpose of the Ecodrama Festival is to nurture and inspire new and innovative dramatic work that explores our ecological condition; then to showcase the best work through collaborative workshops and production.

The concurrent Symposium asks us to think more deeply about how theatre and performance might participate in a sustainable society.

Join us May 21 ~ 31, 2009 for ten days of performances, workshops, readings, and round-table discussions dedicated to nurturing theatrical work that rises out of our connection to the environments we share and love.

Wondering “what IS ecodrama anyway?”  Click here for our musings: What Is Ecodrama?

Presented by the Department of Theatre Arts  of the University of Oregon.

The .pdf of the Festival brochure

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Theater Matters – Notes from EMOS 2009 Part II

It’s 11am where I’m from (9am here on the west coast), and I just woke up. The schedule so far this weekend for EMOS coupled with my determination to get everywhere on a bike while I’m here has added up to the biggest physical challenge I’ve undertaken since my chemo and surgery. At about six o’clock this morning I woke up with a painful cramp in my right calf. I was determined to sleep as long as my body needed. So I did.

I wanted to write more yesterday about EMOS, but my day was so full with the goings-on here, I never got a chance. I arrived at the University of Oregon yesterday morning and began a solid, nearly twelve hour marathon of stuff.

It began by sitting in a classroom, listening to theater scholars describe their work. “Theater scholars,” I thought when I heard the term spoken from behind the lectern for the first time yesterday. “Not theater artists?”

Within the several scholarly talks I listened to yesterday there were a few that stood out, and rose above the scholarly drone. Downing Cless of Tufts University spoke interestingly of how he has directed classic works to draw out their Ecological themes; Heather Barfield Cole (who told me this morning that she’s dropping the Cole from her name soon) of UT Austin described a handful of examples of successful activist theater, including the street theater of Bread & Puppet and even the work of ACT UP — her presentation was refreshingly free of the seemingly typical readerly drone of such things.

The highlight of my day, however, was unexpected: Anne Justine D’Zmura gave a presentation to an entirely too small audience on her experience of producing a work called Green Piece where she is a professor at Cal State Long Beach. Her work was one of the best examples yet of this genre of so-called EcoDrama that I have encountered. Why? It was a completely holistic approach to the problem that we (I think) hope to address when producing work on the environment, sustainability, et cetera. She not only created an original work that thematically addressed the issue of nature, ecological destruction, and social injustice (to name a few), but also took the idea of the thing to heart and made sure to use the work to educate her students (and herself) on the core issues, as well as — and here is where you know I get excited — making a concerted effort to create a piece that tread as lightly as possible on the environment by considering its use of resources carefully. Thank you, Anne. (here is a link to Anne’s study guide for Green Piece.)

Next came Rachel Rosenthal. The now 83-year old performance artist and activist was in good form, and showed excerpts from her works Gaia, Mon Amour (1983), Rachel’s Brain (1986), and L.O.W. in Gaia (1986) — all overpowering examples of her presence on the stage. She struck me as one of the most quotable speakers I’ve ever listened to. Some examples:

“Artaud saved my life.”

“I do love some people, but I love all animals.”

“I hate being old, because I want to see what happens.”

The evening ended with a staging of C. Denby Swanson’s Atomic Farmgirl, a retelling of Teri Hein’s memoir of the same name which details her experience growing up on a farm in Washington state that was repeatedly contaminated with radiation leaking from the nearby Hanford Nuclear site. It was a play in three acts, with two (did I say two?) intermissions. And I have to say this too: as someone who has dealt with cancer directly over the past two years, I was a bit unnerved that the 1st and 2nd place winners of the EMOS play festival both dealt with cancer in a very real way.

Oh, and I almost forgot: I met Theresa May yesterday too, and she was incredibly kind. For all of the nit picking I am capable of, I cannot forget (and won’t let you) that she has undertaken this festival and is obviously a friggin’ force of nature herself. She is to be congratulated for her fortitude and drive — she is asking us to think about these things as theater artists (and scholars), and that in itself is crucial to our future.

Of course, folks never fail to disappoint:

Garrett points at the strange use of the garbage can outside UO's Miller Theatre ComplexGarrett points at the strange use of the garbage can outside UO’s Miller Theatre Complex

It may be difficult to tell in the photo above, but it was surprising to see how so many people at a festival concerned with the environment and our behavior towards it could be so clueless about what to NOT throw in the trash. Behind Ian are a string of recycling options, as well as a yellow bin for compostables — all items used for eating at the festival are designed to be compostable except (I’m not clear on why this is) the forks. But, nearly everyone threw their stuff right in the trash — even the paper plates and seemingly clean napkins. As we walked away from this, Ian and I had a discussion about the need to eliminate sorting at the consumer end of recycling. It confuses, is inefficient, and generally redundant, as most municipalities sort the recycling anyway.

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Chantal Bilodeau

Chantal Bilodeau is a playwright and translator originally from Montreal, Canada. Her plays include Pleasure & Pain (Magic Theatre; Foro La Gruta and Teatro La Capilla, Mexico City), The Motherline (Ohio University; University of Miami), Tagged (Ohio University; Alleyway Theatre), as well as several shorts that have been presented by Brass Tacks Theatre, City Theatre Company, The Met Theater, Philadelphia Dramatists, Raw Impressions, and Women’s Project. She has been a fellow in the Women’s Project Playwrights’ Lab, the Lark Playwrights Workshop and at the Dramatists Guild and has received grants from NYSCA, the Canada Council for the Arts, Stichting LIRA Fonds (The Netherlands), the Quebec Government House, Étant Donnés: The French-American Fund for the Performing Arts and Association Beaumarchais (France). Her translations include plays by Quebec playwrights Larry Tremblay and Catherine Léger, French-African playwright Koffi Kwahulé and Jean Cocteau. Current projects include the book for the musical The Quantum Fairies in collaboration with composer Lisa DeSpain and lyricist Mindi Dickstein and the translation of four more plays by Koffi Kwahulé.

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Otis Connects with the San Joaquin Valley

This is an awesome community arts project that connects graduate students in the Social Practice program at Otis College of Art and Design with the rural agricultural area of Laton, California. Initiated by Suzanne Lacy who grew up in the San Joaquin Valley. For more information go to https://wikis.otis.edu/sjv/index.php/Welcome!_Bienvenidos!_Bem-vindo!

The very first Social Practice program “graduate exhibition” open till June 6th at the Santa Monica College Pete & Susan Barrett Art Gallery (includes work by Candida Ayala, Andy Manoushagain, Ofunne Obiamiwe, Jules Rochielle Sievert and Tory Tepp). Installation shot below:

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Kresge Foundation Folds Green Building Initiative into Env’t Program

The Kresge Foundation has announced that it will be folding its Green Building Initiative into its existing Environment Program.  Whether this was due to a downturn in funding, management consolidation, or a feeling that their efforts were being duplicated by other foundations is unknown.  However, funds will remain available for theaters seeking to rebuild or renovate their existing spaces according to the US Green Building Council’s LEED accreditation system.

Via Philathrophy News Digest, March 2, 2009:

The Kresge Foundation in Troy, Michigan, has announced that it is winding down its green building initiative and has set May 29 as the last day that it will accept applications to cover the planning costs associated with constructing or renovating facilities in an environmentally sustainable manner. At the same time, the foundation has committed to advancing environmental stewardship through its environment program. Launched in 2007, the program is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment, accelerate the adoption of renewable energy technologies, and develop strategies for helping society adapt to the impacts of climate change. Going forward, the foundation will allocate more resources to the program to support policy changes designed to accelerate the adoption of energy-efficient practices in building construction, renovation, and operation.

“The green building initiative has served its purpose just as Kresge intended,” said Lois DeBacker, Kresge senior program director and Environment Program team leader. “The nonprofit organizations that received green planning grants and went on to construct green buildings raised awareness in the nonprofit sector, in the design and construction professions, and in the physical communities where these projects are located.”

Kresge logo

Links:

“Kresge Is Retiring Its Green Building Initiative in May 2009”: Kresge Foundation Press Release, 2/27/09

“Why Build Green?”: Kresge Foundation

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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…

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LA 2019: CULTS, COLLECTIVES & COCOONING

 

Ciara Ennis, Director/Curator of Pitzer Art Galleries in Pomona, has organized an oddly cool and thoughtful grouping of artists at 18th Street Complex in Santa Monica entitled 2019: CULTS, COLLECTIVES & COCOONING. The show includes some ecoartspace favorites like Fallen Fruit and Machine Project, Joel Tauber (in ecologic at Cypress 2009), as well as Jason Middlebrook who east coast ecoartspace curator Amy Lipton has worked with the last couple years on various projects.

What I like about this concept most is the imagined and practical applications that inspire a conversation about what kind of future do we want to live in. Do we want to live in fear, or in awe of the universe, and work together to solve very real problems creatively?

This exhibition features objects, installations, photography, drawing and video works by emerging and established artists and explores three related themes: real and fictional intentional communities, the power of the collective versus the individual, and sustainable solutions for future living. Other artists include: Stephanie Smith/WSAC, Bede Murphy/Unarius, and Nattaphol Ma (artist fellow, 18th Street).

Jason Middlebrook, A Fresh Start,
2009, Pencil on Paper, 55” X 132”
© courtesy of artist Sara Meltzer Gallery, NY

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Raise the Green Roof: Theater for the New City

TNC logoCrystal Field, the artistic director of Theater for the New City, is thrilled. Under Field’s direction, TNC has been a pioneer in the environmental movement for over 15 years, and she remembers when environmental issues were taboo. “When we wrote street-theater songs about organic food and rejecting genetically modified foods 10 years ago, people thought we were crazy,” she remembers. Today, her street theater focuses on environmental responsibility and climate change and the fact that here in NYC, “We may all be underwater while not having enough water to drink.”

Field is inspired by the fact that now there is technology accessible to help us address these issues. The issue is at the forefront of our minds, and now city and governments are willing to help, which Field says is “going to change everything. It’s not just going to be little cliques. It’s going to be well into the social fabric.” She adds, “Now we’re going to put some money where our mouth is,” and that’s just what TNC has been doing.

TNC green logoTNC has taken extensive steps to make its facilities and productions more sustainable, and they have ambitious plans to continue their sustainability efforts. TNC has already taken the following steps to green their theater:

  • They have replaced all the incandescent light bulbs in their theater offices and public spaces with compact fluorescents
  • In their lobby, which they use as an exhibition area and art gallery, they have installed a system that senses the availability of natural light and decreases electric lighting accordingly
  • Recycling of paper, plastic, glass, and metal has always been a priority, and they recently initiated a battery recycling program
  • Reusing show programs: TNC asks audiences to return their programs for reuse if they don’t want to keep them as souvenirs
  • Hosting Green Cabarets, which feature a variety of readings, dances, and musical acts, all inspired by green issues

Beyond these initial steps, however, an ambitious green renovation plan is in the works.  TNC is currently seeking funding from the Kresge Foundation, local businesses, and charity events; once a set goal is reached, the city of New York, which has become very active in green issues via its ambitious PlanNYC, will cover the remainder of the costs.  Features of the renovation are set to include:

  • Green roof diagramA green roof, the flagship component of the renovation, will feature vegetation and solar panels which will reduce their carbon footprint by gobbling up CO2 and releasing oxygen, insulating the theater (reducing heat/cooling energy needs), and generating power to run the theater from the solar panels.
  • Planting trees and shrubs on the sidewalk in front of the theater to increase visibility of their efforts
  • Installing more efficient stage lighting lamps
  • Complete renovation of the Chino Theater, including green lighting and mobile seats
  • Water-saving measures
  • Rennovating the scenic shop to make it more energy efficient
  • An audio/visual recording studio downstairs
  • All renovations will use sustainable wood and the most environment-friendly products possible, and they plan to reuse or recycle as much of the remaining material as possible

Field says that their emphasis on a green roof came about for three reasons.  Firstly, wanting to create an urban green space but without extra land of their own, they decided to turn to an unused space of their own: the roof.  The space will not only reduce their carbon footprint and improve the air quality in a crowded city, but also provide organic food for the community.  Secondly, they’re hoping that it serves as a model for other local theaters, saying, “If all theaters in New York City followed our example, the reduction of our collective carbon footprint would be extraordinary. “  Lastly, they realized that it would cut down on their long-term energy costs by reducing heating and cooling expenses, and might even help to prolong the operational life of the roof itself.

TNC’s plan is ambitious, and the obstacles to fundraising in today’s economic climate are many, but Field remains positive and determined to keep working towards a greener planet. She urges relentless perseverance and gradual change: “One small step and then another small step that is obtained with blood sweat and tears. But, you know, we don’t have slavery in this country anymore, right?” She believes Americans have the ability to recognize their mistakes and change their ways. She jokes, “We smoked, and then we got cancer. But then we gave it up. We learn.”

When asked what recommendations she would give to other theaters looking to go green, Field suggests that they start with green committees made up of staff and audience members, and that they address how the theaters can save money right away by greening their basic operations, from buying green janitorial products, to switching out lightbulbs, to recycling everything possible.  She advocates going online to learn about the basic ways to green a business and to start applying those practices. Lastly, she suggests that you “start talking about green on your own website. Put your plans on your website and people will start to contact you who want to get involved.”

According to Field, it is the theater’s job to be a part of the solution: “The theater is going to tell us that things can be solved.” She maintains that theater is good at reinforcing the message of going green to people who already support that cause – the converted. “The converted need inspiration to go on and do the work that needs to be done. Theater is of great value in that way.”

Links:

More information on TNC’s green roof via their website

“What is a green roof?” via HowStuffWorks

Greenroofs.com and Liveroof.com

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