The world has changed. A global pandemic, the rise of Black Lives Matter and social justice movements, and the intensifying climate crisis have altered how we live and work. This includes the theatrical industry. These changes, however, have been happening while theaters have been closed. It’s been an opportunity for us to reflect and look critically at our own industry. As live performance returns, it is crucial that theatre makers address how these issues affect our process of theatre making. We are re-opening in a new era, it’s not the world of 2019, this is 2021.
By Matthew Stern at Broadway Stage Management Symposium.
- The green re-opening toolkit
- Technologies for a greener workflow
Even before the pandemic and shutdown, the climate crisis was an important issue. From a US perspective, the introduction to Congress of the Green New Deal spotlighted the great challenges and opportunities our country has. In the theatre, we’ve been moving slowly towards greener practices, however, the intensity to implement new sustainable ways to work has been invigorated during the shutdown and the time we’ve had to reflect and envision our post-pandemic return to work.
The Green Re-Opening Toolkit
The Broadway Green Alliance has been around for decades and made many strides to help our industry work in a more sustainable way. During the shutdown, BGA director Molly Braverman along with many other theatre makers, created a new program for theatre artists and stage managers: Green Re-Opening Toolkit.
"Prioritizing health and safety does not need to come at the expense of the environment."
“As we consider how to reopen our theatres and return to work, we have the opportunity to further integrate sustainable solutions into our protocols. Prioritizing health and safety does not need to come at the expense of the environment. In fact, the COVID-19 crisis shines a spotlight on the inextricable link between the health and safety of our people and our planet.” 15
Technologies for a greener workflow
During the shutdown, BGA produced a webinar, “It’s Possible: Sustainable Stage Management,” 16 that featured stage managers discussing greener practices that can make a significant impact in our world and our lives. For example, stage managers traditionally use a lot of paper: in/out sheets, daily and weekly printed schedules, monthly calendars, daily report, etc... All this paper could be eliminated with programs like: Virtual Callboard, Propared, ShowBuilder, Cue to Cue, Stage Doc, Theatron, and more. There are technologies that can help stage managers and production managers be more efficient and greener at the same time.
The Broadway Stage Management Symposium has featured these companies and more in the webinar series SM Tech Friday 17 to help use our down-time to learn new technologies. Green practices also took center stage at three different sessions at USITT this year: The Sustainable Production Toolkit, Climate Crisis and Theatre, and Sustainable Solutions for Reopening Theatre. The BGA was also featured at the 2021 Broadway Stage Management Symposium.
Stage managers are embracing sustainable practices and demonstrating to producers and employers that green practices can be economical as well as environmental.
Stage managers are embracing sustainable practices and demonstrating to producers and employers that green practices can be economical as well as environmental. You can learn more about the Green Re-Opening Tooklit here: www.broadwaygreen.com/greener-reopening-toolkit and join the growing movement to bring greener practices into the new era of stage management.
The role of the stage manager includes tracking and noting the many changes that occur throughout the production process. During our industry’s shut down, stage managers have still been managing change, but of different type. The world is different than when we went into the shutdown in March of 2020. This new world requires new tools and stage managers can lead the way into a new era.
The new era involves stage managers addressing Covid health and safety, systemic racism, and the climate crisis in our industry.
The new era involves stage managers addressing Covid health and safety, systemic racism, and the climate crisis in our industry. Stage managers can advocate for Covid Safety Supervisors and a fresh look at our schedules, as well as better understanding towards company and our own mental health. Stage managers can re-evaluate their practice, remove racist language and harmful practices from use, educate ourselves on how white supremacy culture may be embedded in our practices, listen and lean into difficult conversations, and incorporate more stage managers of color into their networks. Stage managers can also incorporate greener practices and use more efficient technologies to reduce carbon footprints, waste, and harm on the environment.
In the Art of Leadership, author Donald Walters says on the first page, “Genuine leadership is of only one type: supportive. It leads people: It doesn’t drive them. It involves them: It doesn’t coerce them. It never loses sight of the most important principle governing any project involving human beings: namely, that people are more important than things.” 18
Stage managers know this well and the new era of stage management is based on this universal theme. Stage managers will continue to care for people, but now with eyes and ears more open, with more knowledge, and better tools to address the challenges the pandemic has revealed.
18 J. Donald Walters, The Art of Leadership, (MJF Books), 1987, pg. 11
Matthew Stern heads up Broadway Stage Management Symposium, a forum featuring a series of panels, lectures and seminars by some of Broadway's most experienced stage managers.
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