Theater Artists

SHINSAI: Theaters for Japan

Practicing for SHINSAI. Photo Erin Baiano/Licoln Center Theater

This post comes to you from Ashden Directory

Kellie Gutman writes:

A unique event took place at 69 theatres across the United States on March 11, the one-year anniversary of the devastating Japanese earthquake.  Called SHINSAI – the Japanese word for an earthquake disaster – it was a series of readings of ten-minute plays to raise funds for the Japan Playwrights Association.

Some theatres held one or two readings before their normally scheduled productions; others made an evening of presenting many of the plays and songs put together for the event.  More than half of the plays have to do with the environmental disaster in Japan. To read the plays, register here

The Theatre Communications Group helped to organize SHINSAI. Japanese and American playwrights wrote works for the event; Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman reworked two songs from their 1976 musical Pacific Overtures. All plays were to be presented only on March 11.

National Public Radio did a story, which you can hear here.

Yoji Sakate, President of Japan Playwrights Association wrote:

Theater artists in Japan, centered around those living in the Tohoku region that was devastated by the great earthquake and nuclear accident, extend our hand to theater artists around the world to rebuild Tohuku and Japanese society, restoring the conditions that surround the art of theater, such as environments for creative activity, theater buildings, companies, rehearsal spaces, education and audiences.  We seek to work with our international peers to demonstrate the potential of human beings and the theater to overcome adversity as well as the primordial power of expression on stage.

 

“ashdenizen blog and twitter are consistently among the best sources for information and reflection on developments in the field of arts and climate change in the UK” (2020 Network)

ashdenizen is edited by Robert Butler, and is the blog associated with the Ashden Directory, a website focusing on environment and performance.
The Ashden Directory is edited by Robert Butler and Wallace Heim, with associate editor Kellie Gutman. The Directory includes features, interviews, news, a timeline and a database of ecologically – themed productions since 1893 in the United Kingdom. Our own projects include ‘New Metaphors for Sustainability’, ‘Flowers Onstage’ and ‘Six ways to look at climate change and theatre’.

The Directory has been live since 2000.

Go to The Ashden Directory

Superhero Clubhouse: the Call to Grow Theater – The Brooklyn Rail

…This type of question isn’t always asked, but for Superhero Clubhouse, it’s de rigeur.  Founded in 2007 by Jeremy Pickard, Superhero Clubhouse is a “society of theater artists engaged in making original plays and events about the natural world via a green and collaborative process.”  How they make their work is equally as important as the subject matter itself.  A rehearsal room populated with handheld devices may be a solution to printing multiple versions of a script, yet it is also a manner of developing work with more fluidity.  They’re measuring multiple efficiencies here as they constantly tackle large-scale issues: water pollution, mercury poisoning, ethical food production.  In the process, they’re also examining an issue that theater artists are only just starting to acknowledge: how the act of creating theater can be so inherently wasteful.  For Jeremy a play is “a way to realize or actualize the conversations we’re having about bigger issues.”

via Superhero Clubhouse: the Call to Grow Theater – The Brooklyn Rail.

Hollywood Fringe Sustainable Production Award Announced

LOS ANGELES — The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts (CSPA) awarded the first CSPA Fringe Award for Sustainable Production to Presque Pret a Porter, produced by Dreams by Machine on Sunday night at the Hollywood Fringe Festival Awards Ceremony.  The award was designed to reward ecologically sustainable practice in the production of a fringe performance.

The award was adjudicated by the CSPA Directors, Ian Garrett and Miranda Wright, along with select CSPA affiliates. The recipient was chosen based on an online data form created by the CSPA, and informed by the Mo’olelo Green Theater Choices Toolkit.

“The CSPA is not just another ‘go green’ organization,” said Wright at the ceremony Sunday night.  “We hope to gather and distribute information that aids in the sustainability of the earth, the sustainability of our communities, and the sustainability of our art.  And so, the purpose of this award is not to recognize the greenest production.  Our objective in offering this award is to ask questions of ourselves, as theater artists, about the greater impact of our work on the world around us.  The winner of this year’s award not only limited material waste in production, but asked audience members to consider sustainability in their lives.”

Laura Brody, this year’s winner, stated the primary goal of her project as “to create awareness of and to encourage re-use through entertaining and participatory demonstration.”  In the performance, materials were re-purposed from thrift stores and cutting room floors.  Materials were donated by friends and colleagues of the project.  And, the musician’s set up was made of found objects strung together to create a percussion rig.

While debuting at the Hollywood Fringe, the CSPA Fringe Award for Sustainable Production will also be offered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this August, where the CSPA will be presenting a panel on sustainability in theater at Fringe Central in Edinburgh on Monday Morning, August the 16th.

“We’ve been working since we started the CSPA on how to provide resources and guidelines for sustainable production to the theatrical community. Both Miranda and myself come from theatrical backgrounds and it is important to us. The fringe festival model provides an ideal platform to introduce these ideas and the award due to the expectations and scale of the shows. It is easier to start the conversation at a fringe level of production than Broadway. By starting with the Hollywood Fringe, our local and the newest fringe festival, and immediately moving to the Edinburgh Fringe, the largest and oldest fringe in the world, we are looking to create the greatest visibility and excitement around the introduction of ideas of sustainability to the largest number of theater artists at home and away,” says Executive Director Ian Garrett.

“Even more so than we want someone to score perfectly on the questionnaire we use to evaluate shows, we want theater artists to look at the questions and think about how it helps to guide their thinking about sustainability in the their art. There may be questions asked in ways they hadn’t thought, and we hope they ask these questions of their next project and the project after that.”

The CSPA was founded by Ian Garrett and Miranda Wright in early 2008 after individually working on each of the programs that now make up the multi-faceted approach to sustainability separately. The organization provides a network of resources to arts organizations, which enables them to be ecologically and economically sustainable while maintaining artistic excellence. Past and Present partnerships have included the University of Oregon, Ashden Directory, Arcola Theater, Diverseworks Artspace, Indy Convergence, York University, LA Stage Alliance and others

CSPA Quarterly: Call for Spring Submissions

The third edition of the CSPA Quarterly is now open for submissions. This time around, we’re hoping to cover art made from found objects and existing materials. Spring cleaning for the spring issue, if you will! Many of you are working with existing materials to create work- let us know what you’ve been up to!

Questions to consider: What dictates the “sustainability” of the work? If the found objects are made of plastic, is the work green? If the materials are raw, but held together with chemical adhesives, is the work green? Musicians or media artists: how does using existing material affect the sustainability of culture, and fight against limitations of copyright? Performance and theater artists: are you making work with found objects, set pieces, or written material?

The CSPA Quarterly explores sustainable arts practices in all genres, and views sustainability in the arts through environmentalism, economic stability, and cultural infrastructure. The periodical provides a formal terrain for discussion, and seeks to elevate diverse points of view.

Please send your essays, photos, and articles to: Miranda@SustainablePractice.org
The deadline for consideration is April 9, 2010.

Squatting for Sustainability

Reprinted from Seattle Metblogs: “Sustainable Theatre at SU” by Zee Grega, March 4, 2010

Seattle University’s greenSquat program in a new way of producing theater – two or more productions share a stage – the second production “squats” on the set and production design of the first, reducing materials used, and reducing the environmental impact of the shows, which can often be substantial.

The first greenSquat production is a new play called WRITER 1272, a comedy by local playwright Vincent Delaney about plagiarism, ghost writing, and the complex conditions of college admissions. WRITER 1272 is “squatting” on SU’s recent staging of Island of Slaves, reusing the set, production materials and even posters from the previous play to create an eco-friendly production. Any added materials are themselves found, recycled, or repurposed – nothing new. greenSquat creator Steve Galatro says says, “Theatre is wasteful. In terms of time, money, energy, and physical resources, we have not yet done our best as a theatre community to embrace the trend of sustainability that is now present all around us. In greenSquat, we are challenging students to examine their responsibility as eco-conscious artists: examining the wide array of materials that make a production and imagining their potential to make another production entirely.”

SU hopes that greenSquat will inspire other theater artists to reduce their environmental impact as well and has partnered with a number of local businesses to promote the idea and will offer raffles and green product giveaways at all shows.

WRITER 1272 runs through March 13 at SU’s Lee Center for the Arts; tickets are available at the door or in advance through the box office which is open Wednesday through Saturday from 1:30 to 6:00 pm; call 206.296.2244 for ticket details.

Go to the Green Theater Initiative

‘Connecting the Frontal Cortext to the Solar Plexus’: The Ashden Directory’s Contribution to EMOS

The folks over at The Ashden Directory participated in this year’s Earth Matters on Stage at the University of Oregon from afar — an act borne of the desire to contribute to the conference/symposium without flying across the globe to do so.

Here is a DVD they produced in order to introduce their session. It’s a stand-alone piece of work, with fantastic insight. I think my favorite moment is when Mojisola Adebayo says that many theater artists believe that theater is “inherently good for you, therefore theater makers inherently do good.” She goes on: “I don’t think any of us think our work could be harmful in anyway.” When will we, as theater artists, admit that our work can be, and often is, harmful?

Go to EcoTheater

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.

Go to EcoTheater

Message vs. Action

This Post was originally posted to Mike Lawler’s ecoTheaer blog on April 25, 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.

In 1992, American Theatre ran an article called Green Theatre: Confessions of an Eco-reporter, in which Lynn Jacobson traveled to three performing arts companies–Merrimack Repertory in Lowell, MA, the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans, and Dell’Arte Players Company in northern California–and wrote about the work they were doing on the allegedly emerging front of “Green Theatre.”

In the fall of this year my first published foray into “greening” our theaters is slated to appear in the pages of American Theatre too–over fifteen years after Jacobson wrote, at the close of her piece, “Can theatre save the earth? I don’t know. But from sea to polluted sea, I’ve seen it trying.” Well, Jacobson was certainly right about one thing: Theater can’t save the earth–at least not alone. But, it does seem that it can make more of an effort than it has. Because, though Jacobson failed to really take it into account in 1992, the greening of our theater isn’t just about putting on ecologically themed work. It’s also about putting on ecologically friendly work, whether it be new, old, experimental, or otherwise.

In my research, I am struggling to find theater artists out there who are striving for a more sustainable approach to theater production. If you are one, or know of one, get in touch with me–I’d love to hear from you.