There have been a bevvy of eco-theater conferences in recent years, but it’s great to bring it all together with Earth Matters on Stage, which took place this past May 31st-June 2 at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburg, PA. It included a collection of performances, presentations and panels covering everything from carbon footprint to eco-dramaturgy. Session titles included: “Sustainable Design,” “Ecocriticism & Contemporary American Theater,” and “The Carbon Footprint of Theatrical Production,” among many others. That last one was by CSPA’s Ian Garrett, and involved discussions of all the usual players: Arcola Theatre, Julie’s Bicycle, the Broadway Green Alliance . . . Discussions of sustainable design carried throughout the festival and bled into discussion of performance throughout the weekend. Again and again: how do we make theatrical production more sustainable? How do we incorporate or cultural dialogue with the planet into the work? How do we make work that goes beyond “being less bad” into something that actually has a positive impact on the environment?
Below are a selection of photos from the event. Keynote speaker and performer was Holly Hughes, one of the NEA four, whose most recent work (“The Dog and Pony Show: Bring your own Pony,”) examines her relationship with her pets. Ecodrama Playwright competition winners this year included Chantal Bilodeau, whose work “Sila,” explores a cultural cross-section of inuit culture, scientific researchers, and polar bears, and Mark Rigney, whose play, “Bears,” depicts a slow deterioration of civilization through the intimate stories of a group of zoo-bound bears. The work of Earth Matters founder Theresa May was ever-present in the discussion on eco-dramaturgy, and the weekend ended with a discussion of conferences past and future. The dialogue continues, as we discuss and discover more ways that our set of skills can serve the environment.