Childsplay defines itself as an ensemble that creates strikingly original theatre (theatre that is curious, fresh, fearless, and empowering) and engages its community in exploring the intersections between artistry and learning. The impetus for this project came out of both the company’s longstanding frustration over the waste created in theatrical productions and the potential for treating sustainable design as an artistry/learning intersection for our audiences and ourselves. We also needed to walk the talk – after 32 years of producing plays that encourage social responsibility, the staff felt strongly that its stagecraft should embrace environmental stewardship.
This initiative is all about finding practical, realizable, and cost-effective solutions to making our design and production process more environmentally friendly. We want to explore solutions from a variety of perspectives: materials choices, design choices, and potential industry-wide practices. For example, rarely are products developed specifically for use in stagecraft – we usually adapt products made for other industries to meet our needs. We want to explore whether we as an industry have the buying power to encourage manufacturers to create products that meet our needs and are environmentally sensitive. A great example is sheet good lumber such as plywood. Through this initiative, we will begin looking for alternatives (particularly non-wood alternatives) that maintain the best properties of plywood (e.g. can be cut, can absorb paint, etc.) and that come from a renewable resource. We also know that a significant part of the solution lies in the stage design itself. We plan to bring together a group of designers to discuss alternative approaches to materials, geometric constraints, and other conceptual choices that could lead to a more sustainable product. Finally, we recognize that we are not alone in creating significant waste from our productions. We will look for potential partnerships across the performing arts to develop cradle-to-cradle solutions for production waste. Ideas include a central location for used scenery, props and costume pieces to be either re-dressed for other productions or disassembled for reuse/recycling.
We look forward to hearing from the industry of similar efforts and ideas that have either succeeded or successfully failed in your theatres. Please view this as an invitation to post your comments about your own sustainable stagecraft efforts – whether you are doing it or thinking it!!
--Jenny Millinger and Anthony Runfola, Childsplay