"Arcadia" Play Aims for Sustainability


By Amanda Hermans At first, theatre and sustainability don’t seem to have anything to do with each other. But Arcadia, a play put on by the Lovers & Madmen theatre board at Northwestern, is trying to change that.

Theatre productions generally use huge amounts of materials, from the sets they create to costumes and props. And after the final curtain calls are over and the stage lights are turned off, many of these materials go straight to the dumpster for the sake of convenience and efficiency.

Arcadia is operating a little differently. Almost everything used in the production is being borrowed, rented or used second hand. All of the costumes have been either rented or bought in a thrift store. For props and set pieces, the group has gone to other theatre boards and to TI to borrow items. Even though the team did have to buy some new wood for their set, they are planning on recycling it or reusing it after the production.

Nathan Lamp, the outreach director for the play, has grouped sustainability in with his position duties and has been researching how Arcadia can be less wasteful. He said the bottom line for many productions is time, which can keep groups from being sustainable. For instance, renting a dumpster for easy disposal is popular because theatre groups usually need to have all their equipment out of performance spaces by the day after their final show. And thinking about being green is a time investment as well.

“It takes time to reach out to people and talk about how we can be better. I think often that isn’t thought of as important,” said Lamp. “I think that’s led to a lot of excuses.”

Lamp has been working with Eco-Reps to learn more about being eco-friendly and to create a more long-term plan for theatre at Northwestern. He said the production team hopes to make Arcadia an example for the rest of the theatre program.

“A lot of STUCO is based on equations,” said Janie Dickerson, the producer of the show. “A lot of people have formulas for how to fundraise, how to design costumes, but there’s not really an equation for how to make your show sustainable, and I think we’re trying to figure out the bare bones of that.”

With Arcadia paving the way, the production team said their success could influence the spread of these practices across STUCO and help make student theatre as a whole more environmentally conscious.

“It’s funny because there are things that should be obvious, like this, that aren’t until someone does it,” said Gus Schlanbusch, the director of Arcadia. “Once someone does it, everyone else picks it up, and then it’s there.”

The inspiration for Arcadia's sustainable practices was in part taken from the script of the show itself. Written by Tom Stoppard, the comedic play explores two different eras through history and coming-of-age experiences, while bringing in human “mastery” of nature as a prominent motif. The title itself brings in the idea of simplicity and serenity.

“One of the things [Tom Stoppard] addresses in Arcadia is the mathematics of the natural world,” said Schlanbusch.

The Arcadia team said they are proud of their accomplishments thus far. Even though they are putting in extra work to be sustainable, Dickerson says that they have “a committed team who will get the job done.”

“It’s definitely worth it,” she said.

Arcadia is showing February 26 at 7 p.m., February 27 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., and February 28 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the Louis Room in Norris. Tickets can be purchased on the Norris Box Office website ($7.50 for students and $12.50 for general admission) or at the door ($5 for students and $10 for general admission).

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