November 2017

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November 2017

News & Notices

The Green Scene

Dathan Powell Assistant Professor of Theatre, University of Illinois

For this month’s installment of the Green Scene, we are looking at ways in which theatres can collaborate with other entities on their campuses or in their communities to become the hubs for sustainable innovation.

One example of such a relationship can be found at Franklin College, just 20 minutes outside of Indianapolis in Franklin, Indiana. At this liberal arts institution of more than 1,000 students, partnerships have been forged between the college and a national climate leadership organization called Second Nature. That connection, in turn, has resulted in collaboration between the Theatre Department and the physical plant.

Tom Patz, the director of facilities and energy management at Franklin University, working without the benefit of a full-time sustainability officer, relies on student interns to assist in tracking utility usage in the effort of reducing the campus’s carbon footprint. These interns then contacted Gordon Strain, associate professor and the chair of theatre, to study the kWh consumed by the department’s theatrical lighting.

While efforts to quantify and compare such usage between conventional incandescent fixtures and modern fixtures have yielded results that were not as divergent as had been hoped with the advent of LEDs, this practice still exemplifies how partnerships that produce awareness at the local level can benefit the larger institutions that surround. Attention to the Theatre Department’s electrical consumption, as one part of the larger picture, could inform the college on where purchasing LEDs for the campus at large made the most impact.

Another benefit of this collaboration is the awareness that it created for its participants. Professor Strain began thinking about the way the black box theatre consumed energy through its heating and cooling. For large portions of the semester, the room would be empty but would still be climate controlled as though it were occupied. By directing the physical plant to only the times when heating and cooling for audience and student comfort were necessary, the department helped cut energy consumption and costs for the college.

Wherever you work, consider how collaborations like this can make your theatre a driver of changes leading to a more sustainable future. For more information about how you can join Second Nature’s Climate Leadership Network, visit