BIG GREEN THEATER

Big Green Theater (BGT) is an eco-playwriting program for North Brooklyn public elementary students that uplifts the imaginations of young people most impacted by our new climate reality and brings their ideas to life on stage. BGT aims to inspire students to manifest a sustainable and just community by using the power of their creative voice. Superhero Clubhouse runs this program in partnership with The Bushwick Starr. 2020 marks the 10 year anniversary of BGT.

Watch P.S.196 & P.S.75's Big Green Theater: The Movie for free on our YouTube page!

PS196 STUDENT WRITERS:
Lucas Caro, Steven Hernandez, Kaylee Ocasio, Christian Ortega, Jayla Rivas, Kiran Rivera,
Yaslyn Rodriguez, Alyssa Rodriguez, Dahiana Salazar, Eddi Salazar, Maia Steward, Liliana Tavarez, Alyssa Torres

PS75 STUDENT WRITERS:
Jaylin Collado, Jhoan DeJesus, Ethan Hernandez, Sahana Gadson, Jonathan Melendez, Noah Moore, Daniel Nelson, Leanne Samuel Hunt, Darianna Sepulveda, Keila Uchuari

PRODUCTION TEAM:
Lucy Jackson & Lanxing Fu, producers
Jeremy Pickard, director
Leonhard Lierzer, Filiz Erting, & Lanxing Fu, editors
Sadah Espii Proctor, associate editor/cinematographer
Michelle J. Rodriguez, music composer/director /co-producer/co-arranger + guitarist/vocalist
Mauricio Escamilla, music mixer /engineer/co-producer/co-arranger + Drummer/Percussionist
Lexy Ho-Tai, illustrator/puppet designer/puppeteer
Yijun Yang, scenic designer/model construction
Sabrina Bianca Guillaume, costume designer
Jay Maury, sound design/technical direction
Carlos Del Castillo, sound mixing
Leonhard Lierzer, visual effects
Jan Erting & Leonhard Lierzer, color grading
Emma Johnson, production manager
Caren Celine Morris, stage manager
Katie Kennedy, assistant stage manager
Vanessa Pereda Felix, BGT program manager
Sue Kessler, marketing/graphic design
Kimberly Pereyra Monero, BGT intern
Anna Chen, BGT intern

STARRING:
Beethovan Oden, Isabella Sazak, Allisha Edwards, Rad Pereira, Christian Jimenez, Imani Russell, Danny Gardner, Vanessa Pereda-Felix, Maki Borden, Torian Brackett, Aja Downing, Maya Hernandez, Michelle J. Rodriguez, Serena Ebony Miller
with Dominique Brillon, Modesto ‘Flako’ Jimenez, Samuel West, Jehan O. Young, + BGT alumni and staff

CLASSROOM TEAM:
PS196: Julie Bernier, Resident Teacher; Dominique Brillion, Co-Lead Teaching Artist; Jeremy Pickard, Co-Lead Teaching Artist; Allisha Edwards, Assistant Teaching Artist; Anna Chen, Intern
PS75: Jennia Nabole, Resident Teacher; Lanxing Fu, Co-Lead Teaching Artist; Dylan Guerra, Co-Lead Teaching Artist; Rashedat Badejo, Assistant Teaching Artist; Kimberly Pereyra Monero, Intern
Classroom Volunteers: David Schacht, Karsten Otto, Celia Gurney, Nastia Leshchinskaya, Ricardo Dávila, Liza Hersh, Tori Lassman, Owen O'Leary, Isabel Shaida
Guest Presenters: Leslie Velasquez, Yazmin Morales Vicente, Erinn White, Louis Burns, Joan Henry

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A note from April 2020:

It's the 10th anniversary of Big Green Theater, and suddenly we're filmmakers. Though our classroom process was cut short due the COVID crisis, we are lucky enough to be able to continue paying our team of professional artists through the end of April, when our student-written eco-plays were scheduled to be performed at The Bushwick Starr. So we have stepped into new territory, taken on new positions, and are now working remotely to create... Big Green Theater: The Movie!

We rehearse nearly every day on Jitsi, an encrypted, open-source alternative to Zoom. In some ways, rehearsals are similar to our theatrical process: we review the unique gestural vocabulary that we will use and reuse for choreography; we have dramaturgical conversations and discuss the perspectives of our young writers and how they arrived at their wonderful ideas; we "hangout" using the app Slack, with channels such as "#whatdidyoueatforlunch?" and "#petsofBGT".

But in other ways, it is a wildly different process. The BGT production has always been a highly physical, ensemble event, relying on the timing of actors' bodies and live sound design; for BGT: The Movie, much of this work will happen in post-production. So our rehearsals are more about choosing camera angles with whatever device actors have access to in quarantine, and solving storytelling challenges using common household props and a little movie magic. We're also holding remote music rehearsals to record students' original songs, and while we miss harmonizing together in real time, a movie offers us the opportunity to make professional-quality tracks with more instruments than we'd have on stage.

Meanwhile, our visual designers are curating costumes from actors' closets, constructing magical mini-sets, puppets, and illustrations to bring the world of our play to life on screen. After weeks of filming, building, and recording, we will edit these elements together. The result will be two imaginative, musical, multimedia films, free for all to watch.

Throughout this process, we are focused on taking more care than ever, listening to what our brains and hearts and bodies need in this time of grief and fear. At the forefront of our minds is what has always been essential about making theater: being together, caring together, building together a fabric of resilience for uncertain times.

Whenever schools reopen, we will gather with our student playwrights for a Reflection Party and a screening of BGT: The Movie. While we are finding unexpected joy in filmmaking, we can't wait to be back in an actual room with our student collaborators, celebrating our 10th anniversary and their great achievement.
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We are able to continue the BGT program and create a new culminating event that celebrates the students' work thanks to our generous supporters: the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, City Council Members Antonio Reynoso, Rafael L. Espinal, and Stephen Levin, the Revada Foundation of the Logan Family, the Cornelia T. Bailey P/Arts Program, Con Edison, and the Lotos Foundation.

 

PROCESS

The BGT program begins in the school, where a group of fourth- and fifth-grade students meets for three months during after-school hours. The curriculum is structured as a creative outlet for students to learn the tools of playwriting and the fundamentals of climate and environmental justice, practice critical thinking, and develop an expressive voice. The process is rigorous and fun, with lots of personal attention and constructive feedback along the way.

Guest professionals from the fields of science, activism, and social justice visit the BGT classroom to lead interactive presentations, and students also take field trips to engage with the people and problems most relevant to their community. Meanwhile, students collaborate with each other to write wildly imaginative plays inspired by these interactions.

In the second half of the program, while students are working hard to write final drafts, our BGT composer and designers visit the classroom to lead workshops on songwriting and design, offering students an opportunity to add live music to their scripts and imagine the visual world of their plays. Students also visit The Bushwick Starr theater to learn more about the production process, and to hear their final drafts read out loud by our adult cast of actors.

The program culminates in free, professional performances of student-written plays for audiences of fellow students, faculty, families, and the community, where the playwrights take a bow. After the performances, playwrights gather once more for a Reflection Party, to share their experience of the BGT process and to celebrate their great achievement.

HISTORY

Big Green Theater was initially conceived by Bushwick Starr founders Noel Allain and Sue Kessler and developed from year one in partnership with Jeremy Pickard and eco-theater collective Superhero Clubhouse. The program was created, in alignment with the shared values of the two companies, to introduce eco-theater and playwriting to young artists and audiences, and to fill a gap in arts education and engagement for youth in Bushwick, particularly amid budget cuts that eliminated in-school arts programming in many of our local public schools.

The first year of the program took place at Still Waters in a Storm, a community nonprofit that supports reading and writing for Bushwick youth. Starting in 2011, BGT moved into neighborhood public school PS123 as an after-school program for 5th graders. BGT expanded in 2013 to reach 2 public schools each spring, and once again in 2018 to serve 2 more classrooms during the fall semester. Now, Big Green Theater curriculum is shared with 60 students annually, and reaches audiences of 600 in our community with free family-friendly performances of the students’ work. Over the years, this curriculum has been honed to directly reflect students’ lived experience and their personal stakes in working towards environmental justice, including issues like racism, urban ecology, and climate disasters. Environmental professionals including Kate Marvel (NASA), Monica Molina (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory), and Max Soo (NYC Park Rangers) have visited the classroom each year to provide age-appropriate scientific context, and students have taken field trips to sites including the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Billion Oyster Project, and the Salt Marsh Nature Center to gain first-hand exposure to the environmental issues they learn about in class.

Big Green Theater teaches students how to create their own original short plays about climate justice, and then presents them to their families and peers in a professional production using green technology and repurposed materials. The scope of the student playwrights’ imaginations has always been expansive, with plays featuring fantastical characters like mutant butterflies, thawed cavemen, and alien bees. Over the years, we have grown our ability to bring those imaginations to life. Starting in 2014, composers Wesley Zurick, Julia May Jonas, and Nate Weida have worked with students to write original live music to accompany their plays. We’ve also refined our ecological production practices, integrating LED lighting systems, creating an electric grid powered by solar panels, and repurposing sets from major theaters throughout NYC to fully realize students’ creative visions while reducing our environmental impact. Director Jeremy Pickard and his creative teams have also developed a theatrical vocabulary through the years that brings a unified aesthetic to the various worlds that our young playwrights conceive, and craft playful, physical performances that appeal to audiences of all ages.

At the 10 year anniversary of Big Green Theater, we are proud of the hundreds of students and adult artists that have contributed to this program in its first decade.

PRODUCTION HISTORY
2019: Salt Marsh Party (plays by students from P.S. 239 & P.S. 75)
2018: After the Flood (plays by students from P.S. 75 & I.S. 77)
2017: Street Scene (plays by students from P.S. 239 & P.S. 75)
2016: Summit of Species (plays by students from P.S. 75 & P.S. 305)
2015: The Island (plays by students from P.S. 123 & P.S. 75)
2014: The Balien Museum of Second Earth (plays by students from P.S. 123)
2013: Hurricane (plays by students from P.S. 123)
2012: Clean Up the Park (plays by students from P.S. 123)
2011: Of Oysters, Worms and Cormorants (plays by students from Still Waters in a Storm)

PAST PRODUCTION TEAM
Jeremy Pickard, program & production director
Noel Joseph Allain, John del Gaudio, & Sue Kessler, producers
Julia May Jonas, Nate Weida, Wesley Zurick, composers
Chen You-Shin, Michael Minahan, scenic design
Preesa Adeline Bullington, Sabrina Bianca Guillaume, costume design
Lexy Ho-Tai, Cheyanne Williams, prop design
Jay Maury, lighting design
Hannah Birch Carl, Almeda Beynon, Eben Hoffer, Sarah Hughes, Jay Maury, sound designers
Joey Barone, Ann Marie Dorr, Chip Rogers, Poe Saegusa, Lico Whitfield, production managers
Nic AdamsRachel April, Carly Erickson, Sarah Hughes, Rosie Kolbo, Keith Medelis, Harry Poster, Hanako Rodriguez, stage managers
Lanxing FuCassiope Sydoriak, Priscilla Villanueva, assistant stage managers
Maria Portman Kelly, associate producer (2015-16), assistant production & stage manager (2014), production manager (2013), stage manager (2012)
Production assistants: Anna Crouch, Isobel Hutton, Mei Mei Pollitt, David Schacht, Julia Schonberg, Charles Quittner, & James Zeebooker

PAST PERFORMERS
Nanda Abella, Maki Borden, Mia Ellis, Ava Eisenson, Jon Erdman, Danny Gardner, Katherine George, Sam Gonzalez, Eben Hoffer, Tia James*, Corey Johnson, Flako Jimenez, Layla Khoshnoudi, Dan Lawrence*, Melissa Mahoney, Jonathan Martin*, Penny Middleton, Esau Mora, Beethoven Oden, Katey Parker, Kat Pena, Vanessa Pereda-Felix, Flor De Liz Perez, Mauricio Pita, Vicki Rodriguez, Wes Ruiz, Monica Santana, Isabella Sazak, Tina Thurman, Allan Washington*, Sam West, Paul Wyatt, Anne Zager, Wesley Zurick*

*Appeared courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association

LEAD TEACHING ARTISTS
Jeremy Pickard (Ongoing)
Lanxing Fu
(Ongoing)
Vanessa Pereda-Felix (Ongoing)
Dominique Brillion
(Spring 2020)
Dylan Guerra (Spring 2020)
Nissy Aya (Spring 2017 & 2019)
Amina Henry (Spring 2018)

ASSISTANT TEACHING ARTISTS
Allisha Edwards (Spring 2020)
Ras Badejo
(Spring 2020)
Christian Alvarado (Fall 2019)
Dominique Rider (Fall 2019)
Penny Middleton
(Spring 2019, Fall 2018)
Serena Ebony Miller
(Spring 2019, Fall 2018)
Kat Peña (Spring 2018)
Chris Ignacio (Spring 2018)
Isabella Sazak 
(Spring 2016)
Mauricio Pita (Spring 2016)
Maria Portman Kelly (Spring 2011)
Monica Palmieri (Spring 2017)
Modesto Flako Jimenez (Spring 2015-17)
Claire Moodey (Spring 2015)

PAST GUESTS & FIELD TRIPS

GUESTS
Katherine Alfredo & Tess Russo (The Water Center at Columbia University)
Chloe Bass & Lee Mandell (Boswyck Farms)
Dave Chameides (“Sustainable Dave”)
Nicole Davi, Monica Molina, Dorothy Peteet (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory)
David Frank (NYU Environmental Studies)
Ellie Irons (Next Epoch Seed Library)
Jennifer Jacquet (NYU Environmental Studies)
Zara L’Heureux (Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy, Columbia University)
Kate Marvel (NASA GISS)
Jame McCray (Ecologist & sea turtle expert)
Lauren Norman (NY Harbor School)
Ana Orozco (UPROSE)
Nada Petrovic, Courtney St. John & Katherine Fox Thompson (Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, Columbia University)
Sarah Pidgeon (Solar One)
Shawn Shafner (POOP Project)
Dan Tainow (Lower East Side Ecology Center)

FIELD TRIPS
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Billion Oyster Project
American Museum of Natural History
NY Aquarium
Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility
Salt Marsh Nature Center

Prospect Park
Forest Park