BIG GREEN THEATER
Big Green Theater (BGT) is an eco-playwriting program for 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.
Catch the culminating production of Big Green Theater: Queens on April 29th, a new partnership with Astoria Performing Arts Center (APAC) and fifth-graders from P.S.152 in Woodside, Queens! The filmed eco-play The Mystical Jungle and Luminescence City, written by student playwrights and directed by Lanxing Fu along with a full creative team of performers, designers, musicians, and filmmakers. A link will be released for free public viewing on April 29th.
Big Green Theater was initially conceived by Bushwick Starr founders Noel Allain and Sue Kessler. The program was developed and run in partnership with Jeremy Pickard and eco-theater collective Superhero Clubhouse from 2010-2020. The Bushwick Starr is continuing to run BGT in North Brooklyn, while Superhero Clubhouse is seeding the program in new neighborhoods.
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 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.
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 Michelle J. Rodriguez, Wesley Zurick, Julia May Jonas, and Nate Weida worked with students to write original live music to accompany their plays. We also refined our ecological production practices, integrating LED lighting systems, creating an electric grid powered by solar panels, and re-purposing sets from major theaters throughout NYC to fully realize students’ creative visions while reducing our environmental impact. Director Jeremy Pickard and his creative teams 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.
In 2021, Superhero Clubhouse we will begin partnering with new theaters and schools in different neighborhoods in order to reach more students, while The Bushwick Starr will continue to run the program independently in North Brooklyn.
We are proud of the hundreds of students and adult artists that have contributed to this program in its first decade.
2020: BGT: The Movies! (plays by students from P.S.75 & P.S.196)
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 PERSONNEL
Noel Joseph Allain, John del Gaudio, Sue Kessler, Lucy Jackson, producers
Jeremy Pickard, program & production director
Dominique Rider, fall BGT production director & spring BGT assistant director
Julia May Jonas, Nate Weida, Wesley Zurick, Michelle J. Rodriguez, composers
Yijun Yang, 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 and technical direction
Hannah Birch Carl, Almeda Beynon, Eben Hoffer, Sarah Hughes, Jay Maury, sound designers
Emma Johnson, Joey Barone, Ann Marie Dorr, Chip Rogers, Poe Saegusa, Lico Whitfield, production managers
Caren Celine Morris, Nic Adams, Rachel April, Carly Erickson, Sarah Hughes, Rosie Kolbo, Keith Medelis, Harry Poster, Hanako Rodriguez, stage managers
Katie Kennedy, Bryan Russell, Lanxing Fu, Cassiope 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: Sheldon Bennett, Carolyn Chadwick, Sarah Cho, Anna Crouch, Bellene Fisher, Naya Gomez, Isobel Hutton, Mei Mei Pollitt, David Schacht, Julia Schonberg, Charles Quittner, & James Zeebooker
Nanda Abella, Rolls Andre, Maki Borden, Torian Brackett, Ines Dominguez del Corral, Aja Downing, Allisha Edwards, Mia Ellis, Ava Eisenson, Jon Erdman, Danny Gardner, Katherine George, Sam Gonzalez, Maya Hernandez, Eben Hoffer, Chris Ignacio, Tiffany Iris, Tia James*, Corey Johnson, Christian Jimenez*, Flako Jimenez, Layla Khoshnoudi, Alejandro La Rosa, Dan Lawrence*, Susan Ly, Melissa Mahoney, Jonathan Martin*, Penny Middleton, Serena Ebony Miller*, Esau Mora, Beethoven Oden, Katey Parker, Kat Peña, Vanessa Pereda-Felix, Rad Pereira, Flor De Liz Perez, Mauricio Pita, Michelle J. Rodriguez, Vicki Rodriguez, Wes Ruiz, Imani Russell, Haley Sakamoto, Monica Santana, Isabella Sazak, Tina Thurman, Allan Washington*, Sam West, Paul Wyatt, Anne Zager, Wesley Zurick*
*Appeared courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association
PAST LEAD TEACHING ARTISTS
Jeremy Pickard (2010-2020)
Lanxing Fu (2017-2020)
Vanessa Pereda-Felix (2016-2020)
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)
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)
Joan Henry (Earthsinger)
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)
Yazmin Morales Vincente & Leslie Velasquez (El Puente)
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)
Tanasia Swift (Billion Oyster Project)
Dan Tainow (Lower East Side Ecology Center)
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Billion Oyster Project
American Museum of Natural History
Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility
Salt Marsh Nature Center
Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden