September 2017

Print this page ›

September 2017

News & Notices

The Green Scene

Introduction by Paul Brunner, Technical Director, Head of Theatre Technology, Indiana University

Welcome to a new series devoted to sustainable practices in theatre design and production. The Green Scene will present great solutions that can be adopted verbatim, adjusted to suit the needs of your theatre or production house, or spark entirely new ideas.

For almost 20 years I have researched how to make theatre “greener,” and in that time several important things have happened. First, USITT has emerged as a leader in sustainability in the arts through grants, Conference presentations, articles in TD&T, and an ongoing relationship with the Broadway Green Alliance (BGA).

Second, I’ve found that creative ecological ideas are all around us. We need only take pause and consider simple problems, like the one Dathan presents below, in our work. Third, change towards greener theatre requires consistent communication to educate colleagues and promote better practices. As creative-minded artists, we are ideally suited to lead the way in sustainable design and production, and we can and should set an example for our audiences and communities.

Greener theatre requires a local mindset in response to the resources of your immediate community. Dathan Powell’s first The Green Scene article does just that.

Keeping Sustainability Alive in the Arts

Dathan Powell, Assistant Professor of Theatre, University of Illinois

This month we are traveling to the Springfield campus of the University of Illinois. The Department of Art, Music, and Theatre has sponsored a variety of initiatives revolving around sustainability. The latest idea has to do with eliminating the ubiquitous (and awful!) plastic shopping bag from the waste stream.

The Problem: There seems to be a never-ending supply of the thin .5mil plastic shopping bags wherever you look. Estimates nearly a decade ago put the amount of bags used per year at 335 per person, with only a 6% recycling rate. We know that all the bags that aren’t being recycled contribute to overwhelming amounts of landfill and ocean blight.

The Solution: Rather than looking at these items as a nuisance, UIS Theatre has turned them into a free scenic finishing material. It is extremely easy to amass a large number of bags themselves through various campus drives. Simply start the search by sending out a campus-wide email soliciting plastic shopping bags and see how many you end up with! By using them as a sheeting material, they can take on a new life and be reused for multiple shows.

The Method: Once a significant number of bags were gathered, they were laid out over a non-porous material on 4’x 8’ work tables. The bags were arranged randomly, but always with the hand holes overlapped by other bags, leaving no gaps. The layer of bags was then coated with trowel grade Jaxsan 600. Once cured, it formed both the adhesive joining the bags together and a latex-based paint surface.

For the initial trial, the Jaxsan was left at a stucco finish on the bags, which suited the scenery design. The new 4’x 8’, sheets of textured plastic were then stapled to hard-covered stock flats and finish- painted after load in.

Upon striking the show, the sheets were easily ripped from the flats and rolled up for storage. Any tears or holes that resulted from strike can be easily mended with additional bags and Jaxsan for future installations. Thicker grades of plastic can also be used for alternative textural treatments.

Look for more on The Green Scene in coming issues.