In the past year, “green” living has been the trend all over America, and MSU is no exception. In an effort to put students in an environmentally-friendly mindset, the school has set up recycling centers in the buildings, given out free reusable bags and water bottles, and supplied students with tips on how to “be Spartan green.” Even off-campus stores and restaurants are touting new eco-friendly options for consumers’ enjoyment. It seems that everyone is taking charge and thinking more carefully about their environmental impact. Now, the MSU Department of Theater is taking this line of thinking one step further and putting on an entirely “green” play, using all natural and recycled materials.
The play, “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” which is one William Shakespeare’s originals, revolves around a king who, along with three friends, takes a year-long vow of celibacy and isolation in order to devote time to study. However, when a neighboring princess and her entourage arrive, the men find this vow hard to keep. “Lost” is one of Shakespeare’s more comedic plays, so the audience can expect lots of puns, one of his signatures. The Department of Theater has set the play in a 1930’s sanitarium to give it a more modern and “silver screen” type of feel.[justinmiller]
Professor of acting and voice Christina Traister, who is directing the show, said that the department of theater decided to do a green play because they wanted to do something that would inspire others to preserve the environment. “[Going green is] important because we are running out of time of this planet,” said Traister. “Notoriously, a lot of elements that go into production of the theater are not green. Since we do so many shows here we thought, ‘Let’s experiment.” Traister and Associate Chair Kirk Domer, who is also head of design and assistant professor of production design, came up with the idea to do a green play this past spring. They then picked “Lost,” which had already been planned for the season, to be MSU’s first ever completely “green” play. They figured it would be interesting, since the play has nothing to do with environmentalism.
Absolutely every element going into “Lost” is in some way more eco-friendly than the average play. Whether it is the lights, the costumes, or the production notes, the creators of the play have thought of a way to make it more efficient. Costumes have been pulled from stock to save material on making all new clothing. When new clothing does have to be made, it is made out of locally made fabric, not fabric from a chain store, thus reducing gas for shipping. Sets have been made out of all natural materials, like bamboo or silk, and of local lumber, instead of having to move lumber from across the country. The set designers have also used all non-toxic paint to decorate the scenery.
All the materials and the posters for the play were ordered at the same time to conserve gas. While this may still have an impact on the environment, it also reduces the carbon footprint so the designers are not using as much energy as they normally would. Traister and others behind the scenes have also been trying to use less paper on production notes. In addition, the department has also been given a new experimental light designed to prolong the life of the gels used to light the stage. The producers of “Lost” have been working especially close with the Office of Sustainability to incorporate green elements.
Making the play green has not been easy. It has taken months of work to plan, research, design, cast and rehearse the show. While rehearsals did not start until Oct. 6, the students in the play were cast in April, and the producers and designers, and a few of the actors, researched all summer.
Another conflict the Department of Theater had was figuring out exactly how to make turn a classic Shakespearean play “green.” To make their play as environmentally safe as possible, the designers had to rethink some of their original plans. The original plan for the clothes was to buy them all plain white, and then color them using natural dyes. The problem with that, though, is that dyeing clothes uses a lot of water, and the designers thought that would be too wasteful. Other design elements, such as not having everything look recycled, were also a challenge. “The play itself has nothing to do with green. The production that we are doing is set at a sanitarium, so it has nothing to do with recycling. It’s just, how can we still create that world?” Traiser said.
Despite the challenges, the designers have come up with creative ways to entertain while still being green. “Our objective in making this a green production is to experiment with environmentally-friendly ways to put on a play while still delivering the type of show that our audiences will know and expect,” said scenic design graduate student Justin Miller, who is the scenic designer for “Lost.” “This show won’t be made out of milk jugs and pop cans. After the show is over we will look back over our process and see what green practices we can turn into regular habits for shows in the future.” If all goes well with “Lost,” the department may try to put on at least one green show a year.
The play not only aims to entertain, but also to educate. During intermission and before and after the show, booths will be set up in the lobby displaying all sorts of ways various departments around campus are becoming more eco-friendly. The Department of Theater will demonstrate some of the ways they made “Lost” green and other departments on campus will show how they are also trying to change their operations to become greener.[Traister2]
It is not just the theater department that has high expectations for “Lost.” Students are excited to see the concept of “green living” transition from the supermarket to the stage. “I am going to see the play because I care about the environment and I think it will be interesting,” child development junior Ashleigh Kotrys said. Environmentally minded students like Kotrys are the type of people the department is trying to attract to come and see “Lost.”
Traister herself is no stranger to having a green mindset. She considers herself an environmentalist and cares a lot about the planet, especially since she has two young children. She is a native of Michigan, but lived in San Francisco, California, a city known for being progressively green and eco-friendly, for 12 years. When she moved back to Michigan last year, Traister said she was surprised to see how far back the Midwest is in terms of green thinking. “Things [in San Francisco] are very progressive and very cutting edge and on the forefront for thinking green. Moving back it seems that things are a few years behind,” Traister said.
The main thing to remember is that “Lost” is not just another boring Shakespeare play. “I think people should know that just because this is a Shakespeare play they shouldn’t write it off as boring. “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is a comedy, and like many of Shakespeare’s comedies it centers around the ridiculous situations that occur when men and women fall in love,” Miller said. So, if you are looking for a way to have fun and learn more about being eco-friendly, “Lost” is the play for you.
“Love’s Labour’s Lost” runs from November 18 through 23 at the Pasant Theater. Tickets are $12.50 for adults and $7.50 for students and can be purchased by calling 1-800-Wharton or visiting www.whartoncenter.com.