The red carpet at the Tony® Awards has been green since 2009 – 100% recycled material with 49% post-consumer content – but this marks the first year that the behind-the-scenes action has begun to really earn its place in the environmental limelight.
More than any other awards show, the Tonys feature live performances that require costume and makeup changes at a speed that would outstrip a cheetah, and the whole production is organized in six very wild and woolly weeks. Precision is imperative, but when challenged to go green, the Tonys rose quickly from chorine to star.
This year, Tony Production Supervisor Marjorie Horne served as the first-ever Tony Awards Green Captain for the BGA. She put up a bulletin board in the office: “Tony Awards Go Green” (with a picture of The Hulk), and the whole staff was promptly energized, depositing bottle caps and corks in marked vases that Ms. Horne brought from home, organizing blue recycling bins, and ordering green supplies.
When the tech people started coming in two weeks before the show, one of the sound engineers saw the bulletin board and lit up, asking if that meant he could arrange battery recycling. Batteries are Broadway’s blood cells, and thanks to the BGA, most shows now use rechargeable batteries for body mics, saving money and keeping thousands of tons of toxic waste out of the ecosystem.
Orchestrating the Tonys demands more skill, stamina, and perfect timing than any comedy. For the single dress rehearsal everyone gets at the Beacon, all the nominees, along with their dressers and makeup artists, are brought from their theatre in a van in the morning. All chorus members and other principals travel from their theatres in buses. The Beacon Hotel provides dressing rooms and everyone must prep and rehearse at 10:30, at which point many go back to do their show’s matinee. The whole procedure is repeated in the evening. This year, show presenters arrived in hybrid cars, and one of the big projects Ms. Horne has underway for next year is to work with the bus company, Golden Touch, to green the buses too, hopefully adding particle filters to help reduce carbon emissions.
The week before the show goes on, there are daily script changes. About 30 people get a whole new script every day, and because the changes use colored paper, recycled paper is not yet an option. Ms. Horne was able to accomplish some paper reduction, with electronic versions of the early script editions. Another major project for next year is to incorporate more recycled paper into the scripts. She is proud that the office itself used recycled paper and her hope is to find paper made of more – or exclusively – recycled content.
Other future challenges concern bottled water. The speed and difficulty of prep and rehearsals mean that having a tap and asking everyone to use stainless steel bottles is not feasible. However, this was the first year that plastic bottle recycling bins were put into place. Next year, Ms. Horne will make a point of connecting with the individual shows’ Green Captains to alert them about where and how to recycle so that they can in turn continue to shepherd their shows’ green turns at the Beacon. And since no Green Captain is an archipelago (to paraphrase ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’), she hopes that the others will make further suggestions, too.
The Beacon Theatre itself has done a lot to live up to its own name insofar as environmentalism goes, with energy-efficient lighting, recycled paper products in the restrooms, low-flow toilets and faucets, and all trash taken for post-collection sorting and recycling.
As the green work in the Tony production office got underway, what pleased Ms. Horne the most was seeing the excitement it created. This was something people wanted to do and they wanted to go further. As she noted, we might all do our part at home, but it’s particularly rewarding to do it as part of a community. At no point did anyone say, “Do we have to do that?” but rather, every now and then, “How do I do that?” These were questions that others were happy to try and answer – it was very much an ensemble effort.
Putting on the Tonys is a challenge in itself, and greening them that much more so, but Ms. Horne was proud to note that they did a great deal and had a great time doing it. Watch this space to see next year’s green actions!
Finally, since nothing awards-related is complete without acknowledgments, massive thanks go to The Broadway League, The American Theater Wing, The Beacon Theatre, Alan Wasser Associates, and White Cherry Entertainment for recognizing the need to create a greener Tonys, being supportive of the BGA’s efforts, and helping to lead the way.