Sustainable stage management

Lily Proto from Green Theatre

Climate change is scary! We live our lives being reminded about the immediate need for change. As an industry, have we changed?

We must try our best to work towards a more circular economy and think more consciously about the impact we are making through our work. Working sustainably doesn’t have to mean massive changes; incorporating conscious thinking into everyday tasks makes a huge difference. As a stage manager, there are a number of small (and probably cheaper) choices that can reduce both your personal carbon footprint, and also your productions as a whole. Here are just five!

1. Reduce your paper wastage.

Paper, paper, paper! Rehearsal calls, notes, meeting minutes and plenty of other paperwork can be written and shared digitally. With more and more of the industry adapting to working online, this may already be in place for some organisations. There will inevitably be members of your company that are unable to access digital documents for any given reason, but that’s not to say that everyone else can’t!

Even scripts aren’t always necessarily needed in physical format. There will be cast members who only require certain parts of the script for rehearsal, orchestra members who only require the sheet music or alternatively, there may be company members that will prefer a digital copy!

I have recently come across the ‘Stage Write’ software, which allows the user to create a production file online, upload a script, and work on and update blocking and cues in real time. It also has collaboration options which make it really easy to communicate what you are doing with the rest of your crew and design team! Although the software is incredibly useful, I can understand the benefit of having a hard copy of the final book for production week and the production. But that isn’t to say that it isn't worth using for draft prompt copies during the rehearsal process!

2. Create an eco-conscious environment

As a stage manager, you and your team will inevitably be in charge of the set up and maintenance of your rehearsal space. Why not create a more eco-conscious environment by providing a recycling bin and encouraging cast and crew to use refillable water bottles! Ensure lights are turned off when not in use and try to avoid unnecessary heating.

3. Props

Purchasing and making new props should be your last resort! We are very lucky to have a number of options when it comes to propping a show using second-hand items. With the option to use what we have, borrow, hire, charity shop, eBay or even find props from other theatres. Many Stage Managers already implement this practice to save money, but it really does make a difference to the production’s waste.

This also applies to the postproduction life of the props. Could you use it again? Could someone else use it again? Before you chuck them, ask yourself if they could be stored for a future production, donated to charity, donated to a local theatre group or even sold! As a last resort, recycle as much as possible.

4. Lay off the PVC electrical tape!

This might just be a pet peeve of mine, but that inevitable ball of PVC tape that always appears after marking up the rehearsal room or spiking really isn’t necessary! PVC electrical tape is very rarely recycled and when it is, due to the high chlorine content and sticky residue, the effort needed to break it down before recycling provides little incentive to save it from the cheaper option of landfill.

Instead of LX tape, try using an alternative such as a biodegradable or natural paper-based tape or even a chalk pen.

5. Travel and Transport

One of the biggest contributors to the carbon footprint of a production is the travel required, from pre-production to the load out. Transporting sets, costumes, props, cast and crew all contribute emissions on top of the audience members travelling to and from the venue.

Obviously, some of this transport is unavoidable, but there are definitely ways in which we can make conscious decisions to reduce this as Stage Managers. One example could be to encourage your cast and crew to share lifts or use public transport on their way to work. Another could involve trying to source your props and resources locally before deciding to order online. This will not only reduce the emissions caused by delivery of items but will help local businesses who you may create a good working relationship with for future productions!

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