bare feet in the sand

the beauty of nature in a consumer economy


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Lumber order

The building of Much Ado About Nothing has been coming along.  After reviewing the platforms that we own, I decided to use as many as possible.  What that meant was that we cut them down to the size that we wanted.  I was feeling better about not building the entire show from scratch.  Then it occurred to me that because the platforms that we are making are not rectangular, after the show they will be thrown out.  Right angles allow for easy joints so anything without right angles isn’t worth the storage space.  I may be reusing old platforms.  But they are going to end up in a landfill anyway.

We did have to build some of the platforms from scratch.  I ordered lumber twice, but it was a relatively small amount.  I ordered 23 sheets of 4 foot by 8 foot plywood, made of fir.  I also ordered 25 sticks of 8 foot long 2×4, made of pine and 10 sheets of 4 foot by 8 foot luan, which is typically a tropical hardwood.

I would like to say that lumber is a renewable resource.  That it is made with sun and soil.  But the truth is that forests are being cut down faster than they are growing.  And the truth is that even with no mistakes made in building, and even if the show was entirely made of rectangles, there is always excess after cutting.  Small pieces of wood build up.  Eventually the bin for pieces less than 2 feet gets full and those small pieces are thrown out.  And that’s in a perfect world.  Instead I can’t store all of the scrap even when it’s not that small.

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Environmental Theater

As an industry, set design has not historically been very environmentally friendly.  It’s been built on the principle of using wood to build things that will be used for a very limited period of time and then probably thrown away.  Storage space and expense is always a problem, no matter where you are, and especially in cities which is where theater has usually flourished.  It is certainly not the priority at a school, such as the high school where I work.  I have one room, one hallway and one closet.  The room is storage and a wood shop, the hallway is for lighting equipment, and the closet is for paint since it has a paint sink.  Below is a picture of what I currently have to work with.

tech room

I have 12 flats (as in wall units), 16 platforms, 14 chairs, 7 stools and 3 tables.  All made entirely of wood, screws and nails.  I also have about 25 sheets of wood and 70 sticks of wood.

I designed a set for Much Ado About Nothing with no thought to what I have.  (Something I hope to change in the future.)  That doesn’t mean that I can’t use any of it.  In fact, I’m going to do my best to buy as little new wood as possible.  We kill enough trees with the amount of paper from scripts and set plans and notes.

There are people out there who make theater with a lot of thought to their environmental impact.  Look at this list of topics that was at the World Stage Design conference this year:  WSD2013