We have not inherited this earth from our parents to do with it what we will. We have borrowed it from our children and we must be careful to use it in their interests as well as our own.
Moses Henry Cass
“Before Big Green Theater I used to think everything as a different country, now it’s a big country,” Jaden Anderson told me last Friday when I had the chance to talk with the biggest stars of the Big Green Theater Festival – a group of ten fifth graders who are the soul of the festival which will take place at the Bushwick Starr this weekend. Big Green Theather is the result of a 3-month workshop and collaboration between The Bushwick Starr theater, SuperHero ClubHouse and P.S. 123, located a stone’s throw away from the theater.
During the three months this group of fifth graders is introduced to a series of global ecological issues that are formatted locally. Issues that have been explored in the past include waste management and hydroponic farms. Through these workshops, the kids have a chance to learn about issues that directly affect their community and are part of a bigger, global picture. They write plays based on what they learn, which are combined into a single-narrative play that is then produced by adult actors and director Jeremy Pickard of the green theater company SuperHero ClubHouse. I wasn’t familiar with the term “green theater” until I talked with Noel Allain, artistic director of the Bushwick Starr, and Jeremy Pickard. It is a concept that describes sustainable staging of a play. This includes the use of LED lighting, the repurposing of found objects, and even the intentional recycling of movement in the staging of the play. It is like method acting for the environment.
“It’s not to take a test, but to plant seeds and inspire,” Jeremy told me about green theater’s role in the after school playwriting program. The program was born out of the necessity for art-related after school programs, and Jeremy admitted that he grows more and more passionate about it every year. For Noel, the program is meaningful because it contributes to the community by both producing art and engaging the future generation of the neighborhood in environmental issues. It brings about change by making more conscientious citizens. “They are learning and creating something more personal,” said Noel, who also added that “they find a way to express themselves and writing is not a chore.”
“I could use my thoughts and help the planet,” said Selena Medina, one of the playwrights. Their answers are a testament to the transformative capacity of the program and their excitement about it is proof that the work is meaningful. Especially that now the workshops have run their circle and the performance is days away. “When I can’t be at the program I’m sad.”, Jaden says referring to his life after school now that the workshops are over.
Being stuck at home when Sandy happened, which will be the theme of this year’s play, gave me the chance to do some research about it. I read about the causes, the effects and the details about the snowstorm combining with the tropical storm. However, I never had the chance to see it as poetically as young playwright Patrick Lenehan did. He saw the hurricane as two lost brothers that have finally the chance to meet again. This metaphor blew my mind and made me realize that I will make my earth loan payments with a great interest to these kids.
The Bushwick Starr’s 3rd annual Big Green Theater festival will be performed on April 27th and 28th, 2013. To reserve a ticket and learn more about Big Green Theater visit their website. Big Green Theater is also fundraising for the continuation of the program.