Making the invisible Visible

Eve S. Mosher, a NYC-based artist and interventionist, and theatre designer Ann Beyersdorfer joined the panel for Indie Green: A Conversation about Ecological Practices and Values within the NYC Independent Theater Community during the Big Green Theater Festival at The Bushwick Starr. They shared how, through their respective mediums, they make green practices, sustainability, and considerations of the environment visible to audiences.

 

Photo: highwaterline.org

Photo: highwaterline.org

Eve S. Mosher

Eve S. Mosher's works use investigations of landscape, public/private space, and the urban ecosystem as opportunities for audience exploration and engagement with social and environmental issues.  Her project, HighWaterLine, visualized climate change by illustrating, in chalk, New York City’s high waterline predicted by climate data. The area she marked showed which parts of the borough were 10 feet above sea level, and which were susceptible to flooding. As she laid down the chalk throughout lower Manhattan, Mosher engaged the public in discussions of extreme weather and its impacts. When Hurricane Sandy hit, the chalk line prediction proved prophetic after flood waters reached much of the area she had marked years before. 

What started you on the path to exploring the complexities of climate change through art?

I had worked many years as a studio artist, exploring the complexities of our environment in very abstract ways. I finally got fed up with the public discourse and mostly the federal inaction on what we knew, even at that time, to be the greatest challenge facing humanity. My skill that I could use to influence the conversation was art. I recognized the power in simple actions, interactions, performances, and shared experiences as a way to engage many people in a conversation that was vitally important to all of us, but really complex and overwhelming. Art provided a way into that conversation.

What unique skills can artists bring to the table in conversations about climate change?

I think I answered that a little above, but there's a lot we can do. We can make the invisible, visible. Climate change is huge, it's global change on a rapid timetable. We can use many tools to make that visible. We can also make it visceral, we can give a real sense of meaning and bodily understanding of the scale of change. We can use our skills to share stories, stories of personal experience, challenges, solutions. We can create space for the complex conversation to occur. 

I think approaching the challenges from many many different angles is critical. Engagement is meaningful since we learn so well through experience and are so deeply influenced by stories.

 

Photo: annbeyersdorfer.com

Photo: annbeyersdorfer.com

Ann Beyersdorfer

Dedicated to integrating green design practices into her work, Scenic Designer Ann Beyersdorfer considers sustainability throughout the entirety of her process. Beyersdorfer studied art history in Firenze, Italy, architecture with the Syracuse University School of Architecture, and earned her BFA in Theatre Design and Technology from Syracuse University. She is also co-founder and resident art director of RADD Theatre Co.

When did you first encounter green design practices? Was it part of your training?

I first encountered green design when I was in architecture school, and I quickly became very interested in sustainable design. When I transferred to theatre design school, there wasn't any sort of green practices built into the program. It was something I missed and became important to me as I became aware of the large amount of waste that was generated at the strike of each production. I expressed this interest and my motivation to implement a green committee within the theatre school to a guest designer, and she recommended I look into the Broadway Green Alliance (BGA).  I introduced green practices to the school, and as soon as I graduated, I became involved with the BGA. I am also working in Donyale Werle's studio and as a co-producer of a sustainably-aware indie theatre company while striving to incorporate green practices in my own designs. 

What are some green practices you implement as a designer?

I try to use green practices from conception to construction. I build my models out of cardboard and other recycled/recyclable materials, and I try to create as minimal an amount of waste as possible.  I try to utilize reused/repurposed materials in the actual construction of my sets. I also create a strike plan to either donate materials from the set to another theater company or donate them to Build It Green.

In the design community, do you sense a shift and greater focus on using green practices? If so, what role do you see yourself playing in that shift?

Yes, I do see a movement towards sustainable practices. I've noticed moves such as creating digital programs instead of printed ones that get thrown away. I am also noticing that colleagues are more open to green approaches to theatre. I hope to contribute by being a person who leads by example. I hope to serve as an accessible point of contact if there are any questions about how to approach theatre with sustainability in mind, such as what resources we have available to us, and what we as theatre makers can do to continue to tell stories in a sustainable manner.  I hope to contribute my encouragement in exploring sustainable practices, but not by force. 

Why is greener theatre important?

We have to be able to sustain our industry so that we have room to grow and develop this art and community for future generations to experience and enjoy.