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MSU Department of Theatre Goes Green

Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost incorporates environmentally friendly aspect

Monday, November 17, 2008

EAST LANSING, Mich. — From natural fabrics to ecofriendly lighting, Michigan State University’s Department of Theatre will produce its first “green” play.

Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” will run Tuesday, Nov. 18, to Sunday, Nov. 23, at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts Pasant Theatre.

Theater sustainability is unchartered territory, said Christina Traister, director of the play. Traister is an MSU visiting assistant professor of acting and voice.

“It seems that people are only now starting to think about how we can produce pieces of art that are environmentally friendly,” she said. “What we’re trying to do is see how this production can potentially impact future productions and to be environmentally friendly as well.”

While at least half the production will use environmentally friendly, recycled materials, the audience will never know.

“We wanted to make a show with the same production value that our audiences are used to,” said master’s student Justin A. Miller, who as the play’s set designer is spearheading the “green” effort. “Just because we are going to do a recycled, green or environmentally friendly show doesn’t mean we’re going to build the set out of milk cartons and the costumes out of Meijer bags.”

Perhaps the best example of sustainability is scenery. The student set crew made portions of the set from papier-mâché constructed from issues of the State News and used paint that emits no fumes.

And it’s the simple things: no more paper copies of scripts, no more shipped products.

“It’s not so much the green process or doing things differently in the show that’s been helpful. It’s been the awareness we’ve put into our students,” Miller said. “Hopefully they – and the audiences who come to see our show – will think if it’s this simple to be green and help the environment, what else can we do?”

That’s exactly what MSU’s Office of Campus Sustainability hopes.

“Projects like ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ help alert us all to how we use resources, often without thinking about the ramifications beyond our immediate cost of wallet,” said Terry Link, director of the office. “It helps create ‘mindfulness’ to our choice-making that connects us to the life-support system we rely on.”

But the project hasn’t come without challenges, mainly cost. Since the concept is so new, there hasn’t been a demand for environmentally friendly theater products.

“You have to make those suppliers think in a green way too and if we can get more theaters to voice that concern, then that demand becomes evident and those resources become more funded and more available,” Traister said.

MSU plans to host at least one “green” theater production per year.

For more information about “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” visit www.theatre.msu.edu.

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