Broadway Goes Green

Broadway Goes Green

Every day on Broadway, actors and crews work tirelessly to entertain audiences, but they are also working hard to be as green as possible.

Overseeing these efforts is The Broadway Green Alliance (BGA), founded in 2008 in collaboration with the Natural Resource Defense Council in an effort to encourage green practices across the theater community.

Today, each Broadway production has a Broadway Green Captain to supervise environmentally friendly practices. Each Green Captain, which could be anyone involved with a show from actor to dresser, receives a welcome kit with information to help green the production, such as what recycling programs are available. “I think the number one thing that we try to get people to be conscious of is to do a little bit more than they’re already doing,” says Susan Sampliner, company manager of Wicked on Broadway and co-chair of the BGA.

Since 2008, BGA has succeeded in replacing all the marquee lights and roof signs on Broadway with energy-efficient lighting and switching to rechargeable batteries in all of the microphones used on Broadway.

An ongoing effort by the organization is called “closing green,” through which closing shows can donate props and set pieces to be reused as a resource for off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway theaters, colleges, non-for-profits, and more, rather than throwing all those materials in a dumpster. A goal for 2013 is to further develop the program. “No show would have to think about it. It would be automatic that this is what we do when it’s time to close a show,” says Sampliner.

The program Sampliner is proudest of is the Binder Project. “We discovered that producers were doing readings and workshops and accumulating hundreds of binders and didn’t know what to do with them. We started a program where they can bring in binders from those readings to our offices,” she says. The binders are stocked at the BGA and Actors’ Equity offices and actors who are about to do a reading or workshop can borrow them and then bring them back to be reused.

And there is plenty for fans across the country to do as well. Anyone can sign up to get involved in the BGA on the website. Some ways for theatergoers to go green include printing tickets at home on recycled paper, taking public transportation or carpooling to the theater, and taking only one Playbill. Literally millions of Playbills are being given out in theaters and since they are not printed on recycled paper, fans can share Playbills with family and friends.

And it’s not just limited to what you can do at the theater. “I think people should be conscious of how much waste they produce and try to cut down,” says Sampliner. “Basically everybody can be doing something greener than what they’re doing right now, whether it’s not using plastic water bottles and using a reusable bottle instead or whether it’s recycling rather than throwing plastic in the garbage, or turning off the lights when you’re not home.”

Even with all the achievements of BGA in a short time, there is still more work to do. For example, though the BGA has replaced all the marquee lights and roof signs on Broadway with energy-efficient lighting, making all lighting inside theaters energy-efficient is more challenging, as some energy-efficient lights aren’t dimmable and don’t meet the artistic requirements of the show designers. BGA is working to move the industry along and develop the kinds of instruments and products that designers would need to make all lights on Broadway energy efficient a reality.

But if history is any indication, the Broadway community will find ways to overcome these challenges. The Broadway company of Wicked started this initiative and was the first show to use rechargeable batteries in all of the microphones and to teach the other shows how to do it. There were skeptics who thought batteries wouldn’t hold a charge to last for a show, but now it’s been proven that it does work.

The BGA’s efforts are not just limited to the Broadway community. The organization has started developing an off-Broadway initiative and is working globally as part of the International Green Theatre Alliance. And the Green Captain program has also been expanded to off-Broadway, touring companies, and colleges.

“This wasn’t an important cause to me until I got involved, but the more I’ve learned about what’s happening in the world, and how it affects the planet, the more important it’s become to me,” says Sampliner. “I also really love that this is the first cause since the AIDS crisis that the entire Broadway community has been able to embrace and work together to make a difference.”

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