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By Joseph Napolitano
The magic of Broadway turns guitar strings into bracelets, playbills into flowers, and trash into Tony Award-winning set designs. With roots in folk art, the use of salvaged materials deliberately raises the intrinsic and monetary value of recycled objects. It gives items a second life, and transforms the mundane into the extraordinary. Through the manipulation of forms, mass and surfaces, individuals craft waste into functional products and works of art.
Popping up at events like BroadwayCon, and selling out at the Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction, Crafters are now coloring the Great-White-Way green with special up-cycled novelties unique to the theatre Industry. Theatre enthusiast & librarian, Ronni Krasnow creates “collage art with a theatrical twist” from Playbills, flyers and magazines (Facebook.com/broadwayglue). Ms. Krasnow started upcycling when she wanted to create a gift for her dear friends, songwriters Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty. She enjoyed the experience so much that she continued working on pieces that focus on particular shows, composers, themes, and sometimes just based on a color alone. “I love that all my materials are upcycled. It’s fun to create something new and different from something familiar”
Ronni Krasnow, Broadway Blues, 2014, 11×14 inches, mixed media collage
“It’s a little like doing a jigsaw puzzle, just figuring out where the various pieces fit,” Ms Krasnow says. Her two cats fancy her work as well, and love interfering with her layouts from time to time.
Ronni Krasnow, Some of Sondheim, 2014, 11×14 inches, mixed media collage
Recycling breaks consumer materials down so that their base materials can be used in new consumer products. Items that are up-cycled become refashioned, but still maintain their characteristics. “I am a librarian,” Ms. Krasnow says, ”so I am always looking at the various materials we discard to see if there is anything I can (re)use.” When looking at a book or magazine now, I am much more focused on typeface, color, and word size than on the actual articles!”
While quite beautiful, the nature of up-cycled work is inherently a political statement. For BGA member & communications guru Sasha Pensanti, it’s a lot of both. Sasha began up-cycling While working on multiple Broadway productions. Show after show, she watched as Playbills were continually thrown away. ”I kept asking why we couldn’t do something,” she said. “The answer always had to do with union rules. I didn’t like that answer.” Sasha decided to take it upon herself to make paper flowers from the discarded playbills. From there Ms. Pensanti developed a whole line of products: frames, jars for the flowers, canvases, hair clips/headbands… (https://www.etsy.com/shop/SomeOtherMe).
Color Playbill Bouquets by Sasha Pensanti
“I’ve become conscious of a lot more waste than before. I’m also really careful to use recycled boxes when shipping my flowers, and instead of buying bubble wrap I use the extra playbill pieces, crumble them up and they make great packing materials! 100% recycled!” Ms. Pensanti said. Similar circumstances precipitated collage artist Stephen Winterhalter (The Art of Broadway: https://www.etsy.com/shop/theartofbroadway) to begin up-cycling playbills into works of art. Stephen’s work emerged when he wanted to do something with his enormous Playbill collection so they wouldn’t end up in the trash. “It started out as a small idea that just kept growing. By time the holidays rolled in I had over 100 orders,” Stephen said.
Custom Broadway Playbill Art Collage by Stephen Winterhalter, 12×12 inches
Stephen has also been working with WICKED on Broadway since 2005, and calls the Gershwin Theatre his second home. As of late, people have taken to his collages. “People buy them to commemorate a trip they took to NYC, all the shows from their favorite composer, or as a gift for a Broadway fan,” Stephen says. “I also get a lot of theatre educators contacting me about pieces for their school.”
Custom Broadway Playbill Art Collage by Stephen Winterhalter, 12×12 inches
“The idea of giving a second or third life to Playbills is what ultimately propels these projects,” Stephen says. “People get a Playbill at a show, and sometimes they just leave them on the floor afterwards. This is the perfect opportunity to take those Playbills and turn them into something new. Another example is when a show closes or there’s a major cast change that renders a batch of Playbills unusable at the theatre. I can use those!” Stephen’s idea of getting multiple uses out of a single Playbill is sustainable thinking. His friends contact him when they are discarding their playbills, sometimes by the bin, and he always collects them. All of Stephen’s work is crafted by hand. He creates the frames, and uses the excess paper from inside the frames as gluing mats so nothing is wasted. Stephen also relishes in the idea of the puzzle. “It’s really satisfying when you finish a piece and think, man, these all look great together!” Check out Stephen’s instagram for more of his work @Art_of_Broadway
You can also find products where function influences form, and familiar every-day items and accessories are fabricated from waste material. There are chairs made from street signs, dresses made from candy wrappers, and homes made out shipping containers; the list goes on, and the possibilities are endless. Bagitude, a company based out of Chicago, creates handbags from playbills. Now it’s your turn! If you or someone you know is a Broadway fan and creative up-cycler, share your work with us on twitter: @broadwaygreen, facebook.com/BroadwayGreenAlliance, & instagram: broadwaygreenalliance.
An Oh-Yes-We-Can in Paris
COP21 and what it means for the arts
By Stan Friedman
This past December, representatives of 195 nations came together in Paris to forge a landmark agreement designed to rein in global warming. The gathering, known as COP21, or, for the long winded, the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, put in place a series of regulations meant to save the planet from rising sea levels, destructive storms, droughts, floods and, you know, extinction.
In short, the COP21 delegates agreed to:
Lower pollution levels so that the rise in global temperatures is limited to no more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, that being the point at which scientists believe serious devastation would kick in.
Limit greenhouse gases emitted by humans to the same level that nature can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100.
Review each country’s contribution to cutting emissions every five years.
Establish “climate financing,” wherein the wealthier countries provide funding to help poorer nations adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy.
You can read the full 31-page agreement here.
Clearly, these are mega-initiatives with a global scope and a century-wide timeframe, so, how should we, as a community of theatre professionals, react in the here and now? How might COP21 affect the performing arts, both from the practical aspect of producing a show, and from the standpoint of providing creative inspiration for new works of environmental theater? We reached out for advice and examples from some experts. And, since this is a worldwide initiative, we cast our net internationally. The responses have been intriguing and we will be sharing them with you in blog posts over the coming months. First up, a call to arms from Brussels and from London:
Ilse is based in Brussels and is the Coordinator for IMAGINE 2020. She points to the usefulness of cooperation among arts groups, and the importance of making your message heard: “We believe it is important to share with the audience our concerns about what is going on in the world and how we can make things change.” Her organization has certainly done just that. They began, in 2007, as a group of six European theaters, gathered under the name Thin Ice, with the aim of spreading environmental responsibility in the theater world. Today, IMAGINE 2020 is made up of 11 arts organizations spread across nine European countries. From 2007 until 2013 they mainly commissioned and presented works of environmental theater and encouraged sustainable practices in theaters and cities. The last few years their focus has been more on “communication about the future of our planet through art, imagination and debating.” As explained on their website, they want to “engage the European cultural sector and use its creative potential to raise awareness, involving the general public both as audience and as participants. Art should provide a physical and imaginary space where people can take a step back, away from the corporate, the commercial and the educational, to exchange and engage with each other.”
Lucy is Program Director for Cape Farewell, a London-based non-profit. Working internationally, they bring artists, performers, educators, journalists and scientists together to “communicate on a human scale the urgency of the global climate challenge.”
Last September, Cape Farewell and French partner COAL launched a global arts festival calledArtCop21. Lucy explains, “ArtCop21 sought to engage with hundreds of thousands of members of the public in a more human, visceral way. Climate change is too often viewed through a policy or scientific lens. ArtCop21 aimed to challenge this trope, arguing that climate is very much a people problem – not one to be left to solely the politicians. Indeed it is the biggest ‘people’ problem we’ve ever faced. But the biggest challenge is to move people to care in the first place because denial is a powerful thing, particularly when faced with what feels like an impossible task.
“ArtCop21 exceeded expectations and built up an enormous cultural momentum – numbering a total 551 events in 54 countries. The festival brought a huge and inventive array of offerings, from a concert in the Arctic Circle featuring Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones to a street art exhibition in Benin, Africa.
“The festival sought out work that uses creativity to reframe the catastrophic, negative language of the climate battle into an opportunity for positive change. The thousands of voices involved in ArtCop21 argued that we need is a major cultural shift in the way we produce energy, consume, exchange and work and ultimately define ourselves and our culture. We need to move to a post-carbon culture and economy; and fast.”
In For the Long Haul
National tours go green where the rubber meets the road.
By Stan Friedman
A basic tenet of New York City living is that the longer you dwell here, the less cognizant you are of the large land mass to our west known as “the rest of the country.” To an average urban theater-goer, a Broadway show is a show on Broadway, and when it’s gone from the Great White Way, out of sight means out of mind. But for another entire universe of working professionals, the party is just getting started as America comes calling in the guise of a national tour.
At any given time, a couple dozen current or former Broadway successes are crisscrossing the countryside. Broadway productions in the coming year are scheduled in more than 240 North American cities, which means that you will be able to find national tours of Pippin in Portland,Beautiful in Buffalo and Wicked in Wisconsin.
In the early days of touring, productions traveled by rail and thus turned up only in the larger cities along the major train routes (i.e. Another op’nin‘, another show / in Philly, Boston or Baltimo’). But all of that changed in 1949, when the Broadway production of Mr. Roberts was loaded into a specially designed tractor trailer and became the first show to travel à la bus and truck. Other great plays of the era, like Death of a Salesman and South Pacific, soon followed. Five years later, 11 national tours, including ballets, operas, and philharmonics racked up over 160,000 miles. Fast forward to 2015 and entertainment-based touring covers more than 5 million miles annually.
Leading the way today, as it did in the 1950’s, is a family-owned trucking company known as Clark Transfer. To understand the complexities that the Clark team handles on a daily basis, or just for any fan of behind-the-scenes theater action, their 10 minute “Life on the Road” video is mandatory viewing. Clark is also at the forefront of their industry in terms of environmental responsibility. They are a member of the EPA’s SmartWay program, their Executive Vice President, Charlie Deull, serves as co-chair of the Broadway Green Alliance and, since 2008, Clark has been operating their ownTouring Green initiative.
With so many miles being traveled, and with shows often requiring multiple trucks to satisfy audience demands for the same extravagant sets as a New York production, the carbon footprint is indeed deep. Those millions of touring miles equate to over 8,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. The Clark fleet does what it can to manage emissions – proper tire inflation and reduced idling times are key. But the heart of Touring Green is their efforts in carbon offsets. Each touring show that wishes to participate pays Clark a penny and a half per mile for each trailer they haul. One hundred percent of those funds are then sent to Clark’s energy partner, NativeEnergy, to be used in investing in clean technologies. Over 110 productions to date have taken part and their contributions have been used in such efforts as the Brubaker Farms Anaerobic Digester Project in Pennsylvania, which uses amethane digester to create enough electricity to power a farm and up to 200 nearby homes, and the Iowa Farms Wind Project which, beyond the Man of La Mancha’s wildest dreams, employs wind turbines to reduce approximately 8,165 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year. For more information on Touring Green, visit the Clark website. And go to NativeEnergy’s site to learn more about their widespread carbon offset projects.
The 1,000 Percent Solution
When Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre learned that 95% of its carbon footprint was beyond its control, they changed the equation.
By Stan Friedman
The Harbourfront Centre, on Toronto’s waterfront, is a complex complex. On a sprawling 10 acre site, leased from the city, this non-profit charitable organization presents 4,000 free or low-cost arts and cultural events annually, drawing 12 million visitors each year. Their August event calendar is a study in multicultural entertainment with performances that include the Moko Jumbie stilt dancers, the Spice Island performers and Flambeaux Drummers, and a Canadian Women in Reggae showcase. They also operate as a small city within a city, overseeing two marinas and three parking facilities (which adds to its revenue stream), while partnering with more than 450 community and cultural groups, all the while drawing in government grants and contributions that cover a third of their operating budget.
The Harbourfront Centre Theatre. What was constructed in 1926 as a storage facility for large blocks of ice, is today a lovely 422 seat theatre, enwrapped by a three-story high glass encasement that serves as an outer lobby. By 2011, that encasement was leaking energy and in dire need of repair. Lobby temperatures on some days were soaring to 104°F. Their outside-the-box solution was to create the first solar art glass project in Toronto. Canadian artist Sarah Hall was commissioned to create this permanent structure, and the result is a piece called Waterglass. It contains 119 hand-painted glass panels as well as a series of glass panels imbedded with over 360 photographic images documenting the history of Lake Ontario. Ten glass panels are embedded with photovoltaic cells that collect solar energy to power the lobby lights and the entire work is treated with Heat Mirror technology which provides the highest insulation values possible for glass.
Back Office Paper. Through partnerships with Xerox and Staples, HFC reduced their paper use by 25%, and the amount of carbon associated with their paper use by 65%, primarily by switching to a more expensive 100% recycled paper. They employed office practices that ranged from the obvious (double sided printing), to Aha! moments (consistent configurations across all the printers) to the high tech (a meter system on the office printers requires workers to swipe their i.d. cards before anything is printed, thus eliminating nearly all erroneous print jobs). In the long run, this multi-department initiative realized a 10% cost savings on all office and cleaning product supplies, even with the more expensive paper.
As important as these projects themselves are, the approach and logistics that have gone into them have given birth to a blueprint of sustainability that could have significant impact far beyond the Centre’s campus. Randy has packaged this acquired knowledge into a teachable program called REFOCUS. The program utilizes a “social enterprise model.” By partnering with a broad range of organizations to disseminate the information, they are able to reach a large and diverse audience with minimal promotional costs.
As outlined on their website, the program presents a path to sustainability consisting of six key elements:
Leadership Capacity: An understanding of how lackluster leadership can hold a sustainability program back, as well as the kinds of skills and abilities that effective sustainability leaders possess.
Change Management Capacity: What is involved in assembling a change management team as well as techniques for effectively engaging stakeholders.
Measurement Capacity: How to build the level of capacity a successful program needs, and the consequences of failing to do so.
Understanding Your Impact: The importance of collecting data, employing a variety of data collection techniques.
Selecting the Best Projects: How to uncover, assess, and prioritize project opportunities.
Report on the Results: The many benefits of reporting annually, why credibility can be just as important as the actual results generated, and practical techniques for developing a strong report.
So far, in addition to working alongside a variety of non-governmental organizations, REFOCUS has partnered with six leading Canadian universities, with several more in the works, to bring their program to students, as well as to administrators responsible for addressing campus sustainability. It all begins with a day-long certification workshop that includes problem solving exercises, self-assessments, case studies and more. Once certified, practitioners are given access to an interactive guidebook that provides the roadmap for developing a sustainability program, and there is access, as well, to an e-Library full of learning materials. The beauty of the program is its scalability. Its lessons are applicable not only to large, cultural non-profits, but to students interested in learning about sustainability, individuals tasked with managing their organization’s sustainability, as well as government and non-government organizations committed to providing sustainability education and training.
By making this program affordable and available to all, that original focus on the 5 percent of their own problems now has the exponential power to bring about change on an international level. If you would like to get involved or learn more, REFOCUS is interested in hearing from organizations that deliver sustainability-focused education that would be interested in bringing REFOCUS to their audience/membership, or from organizations looking to set up or take an existing sustainability program to the next level by adopting the REFOCUS methodology.
Royal Waste, Inc., the company the services Shubert and Jujamcyn houses has sent us a video to help explain their post collection sorting system. M&M Sanitation, who services Nederlander houses, calls it no-sort recycling but it all means the same thing: Everything you put in a trash or recycling bin at a Broadway theater will go to a materials recovery facility where all recyclable materials will be sorted out and recycled. Curious? Watch how its done. Questions? Email email@example.com.
Click the link below to watch.
As Scene on TV
Materials from commercials find a repurpose in life with the help of EcoSet.
By Stan Friedman
In 2010, Kristina Wong was putting together her one-woman show, Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, an exploration of the high rate of depression among Asian American women. Knitting was a central metaphor in the show, a visual representation of unraveling. At the same time, Target, the department store mega-giant, had just finished production of a TV commercial that had been filmed in a colorful field of huge yarn balls. How those yarn balls bounced from a 30-second spot to the set of Ms. Wong’s touring stage production is a tale that would not have been possible without the work of a company called EcoSet.
Based in Los Angeles with a fulltime staff of five, and boasting a large roster of freelance crew members in both L.A. and New York, EcoSet works to instill environmental responsibility before, during and after commercial shoots. Since their beginnings in 2008, their zero-waste initiatives have included redistributing more than 220 tons of material to theater companies, film students, artists and nonprofits at no cost to the recipients. In California there were clothes hangers for the costume department at the Burbank Community Theater, sheets and plates for the Good Shepherd Center for homeless women and children, as well as crates of apples to feed the reptiles at Star Eco Station, an environmental science center in Culver City. New York organizations that have benefited include Covenant House, Materials for the Arts and the Bowery Mission, as well as those highlighted in the chart below:
Courtesy of EcoSet
In addition to Target, who has now partnered with EcoSet in over 170 shoots, other heavy hitters who have utilized EcoSet’s eco-consultancy and waste management services include Honda, Campbell’s Soup, Subaru, Old Navy, Samsung and Microsoft. When materials are not suitable for redistribution, they are recycled with the help of localized haulers and recyclers – over 170 tons worth to date. Leftover food from catering is donated or composted. Water refilling stations and stainless-steel water bottles for crew workers eliminate the need for plastics (Subaru estimates that, over the course of 7 shoots, they avoided the purchase of 6,000 plastic bottles.), and they have led the charge for the use of solar hybrid trailers in place of those that use standard fuel burning generators.
The clearing house for much of EcoSet’s West Coast distribution is a large warehouse located a few blocks from Forest Lawn Cemetery. They call it the Materials Oasis. As exhibited in their Facebook photo gallery, the space is brimming with donated walls, doors, tires, paint, giant crayons, Christmas decorations and artificial plants.
As the Oasis photos show, EcoSet definitely has many a wall unit and wooden doorframe, but it should also be noted that they clearly have no glass ceiling. The company was founded in Minnesota by Shannon Bart, who shortly thereafter moved on to become the Sustainable Production Manager at NBCUniversal. Since 2012, Kris Barberg has been the firm’s Executive Director. Kris began her career as a videographer and editor, then became a freelancer for ten years in commercials and features on the West Coast. Amy Hammes is Kris’ Business and Community Engagement Director and self-proclaimed “Waste Warrior.” And Jamie Bullock, their former production supervisor in LA, came to New York in December and now oversees all East Coast projects.
Today, these leaders and their crews know that their work is cut out for them. According to the industry publication SHOOT, more than 8 million pounds of waste are discarded annually from commercial productions in Los Angeles alone, with a typical shoot generating 500 – 1,000 pounds of waste per day. And looking beyond the ad world, the Producers Guild of America has reported that a single motion picture can generate 275 tons of set debris and 70 tons of food waste.
Interested in joining the EcoSet cause? L.A. based folks with film production experience are invited to apply for on-set freelance here. Have materials to donate? You can become a donation partner by signing up here. EcoSet also has a free email alert system that lets participants know about upcoming available items. To request to be added to the list, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Sign me up for EcoSet’s Free Alerts.
In a city named Greenville, one might expect its citizens to have a certain respect for the environment. But the team behind the Peace Center for the Performing Arts in Greenville, S.C. has taken the cause to a whole new level, becoming the first performing arts center in the country to generate zero landfill waste. The key to their success is a partnership with a local, family-run and environmentally friendly waste management company, WasteCo Inc. As explained in a recent Peace Center press release, the multi-step recycling process works like this:
All waste from the Peace Center is taken directly to VLS Recovery Services or Greenpointe Recycling Center. Once there, the material is sorted for recyclable material. The unsalvageable material is shredded and taken to a gasification site. The material is then fed into a gasifier, where the waste and oxygen create synthetic gas (syngas). This syngas can then be cleaned for any impurities and used for energy.
The program is especially impressive given that the Peace Center is no small outfit. Occupying a six acre downtown site where a textile plant and a mayonnaise factory once operated, the campus boasts seven different venues in addition to administrative and production offices. They draw more than 360,000 people a year and present over 600 events including, this season, the national tours of Newsies and Matilda the Musical. The Center generates some $25 million a year in economic activity.
Maureen Shallcross, VP of Operations for the Peace Center, spearheaded the zero waste effort, and found no resistance from any of the involved parties. Indeed, quite the opposite. “Eliminating the need for staff to sort was a value added,” she observed, and because WasteCo was their existing vendor, there was continuity on the service side of the equation. In addition to the zero waste success, Ms. Shallcross pointed to their other green initiatives which includes battery recycling and an annual electronics recycling program. Also, they have recently completed an ASHRAE Level III energy assessment and will use the results to plan short term and long term cost-effective energy conservation measures. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and an expansive website all play a part in getting the green word out to their audience, alongside mentions in the local media.
When asked if she had any planning suggestions for the Broadway community, Ms. Shallcross gave validity to the BGA’s methodology: “Find an individual within your organization with passion about sustainability and charge him/her with pulling together a green team across departments to ensure institutional commitment to a program.” Our Green Captains program falls right in line with this solid advice.