Led Lighting

“Sonic Bloom” a new Interactive artwork showcases solar, sound and education at the foot of the Space Needle

In the playful context of Seattle Center’s festival groundsSonic Bloom is a new energy-neutral permanent interactive art installation at the foot of Seattle’s Space Needle and a defining entry sculpture to the Pacific Science Center. The signature sculpture is designed to demonstrate the science of solar energy in an accessible way as well as becoming a new icon for Seattle Center.

“Sonic Bloom” is a solar-powered work of art created by Dan Corson for the Pacific Science Center on behalf of Seattle City Light’s Green Up program, which supports the development of new renewable energy sources.

The project is composed of 5 super-sized flowers (up to 40’ tall and 20’ across) sporting frosted acrylic petals that glow like glass when backlit.  Mounted on the top of each painted flower head are 46 locally made photo voltaic cells. These solar cells collect the energy from the sun and are fed back into the electrical grid and completely offset the energy-efficient LED lighting and speaker electrical consumption for the project.

“There’s a myth that solar power won’t work in Seattle” said artist Dan Corson. “But even with our often cloudy weather, solar works well here”. The challenge was going beyond simple rooftop installations and engaging people with solar

After dark, the sculptures make a dramatic illuminated presence, revealing the domed undersides of the flowers as dynamic illuminated surfaces awash in moving color and concentric echo-inspired patterns. The backlit painted fiberglass diffuses the energy-efficient LED lights and creates an interesting patterned surface in the daytime.

The title Sonic Bloom refers not only to our defining location “on the Puget Sound” but also to the artwork itself that sings as the public approaches each flower.  Every flower has its own distinctive series of harmonic notes simulating a singing chorus. A hidden sensor located in each flower identifies movement and triggers the sound.  So if there are 5 people engaging the flowers together, it is possible to compose and conduct music together or by walking through, randomly set off a harmonic sequence.

The colorful striped stalks of the flowers not only accentuate the curved stems, but are also actual “barcodes” that can be deciphered by inquisitive sleuths motivated to decode the super-sized puzzle.

Seattle, with its mild maritime climate, hosts some of the most enthusiastic gardeners in the country. The artist is not only a self-described “plant geek” and has created an award-winning garden featured in a number of magazines, but has also created the garden concept for the planting beds below the sculptures as well.  The Sonic Bloom garden is designed for a year-round viewing highlighting certain flowers and color combinations that echo the sculptures every season.

Interpretive signage at the exhibition and inside Pacific Science Center explains how solar energy works and shows in real-time how it is powering the flowers.

Green Theatre Network Meeting held at Arcola Theatre and Tent on 24th November

The event was an opportunity for members of the Green Theatre Network to meet up, share progress, discuss issues and find new ways to improve sustainable practices within theatres. The morning consisted of discussions and updates, particularly from members of the network who gave brief summaries on their latest sustainability initiatives. There were also discussions on the future of greening theatre and what we can ideally achieve by 2025.

The variety in projects ranged from new LED lighting techniques, introducing Green Riders into contracts, energy monitoring and measuring, Climate Week 2012 progress and more. It was inspiring and exciting to see how each theatre or company is using different initiatives to be more sustainable.

The event was organised by Julie’s Bicycle, an organisation working to integrate sustainability into the arts.

Go to Arcola Energy

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.

Go to EcoTheater