In June of 2014, Nan Zabriskie, local costume designer and long time Theatre School/DePaul faculty member, completed a thesis in partial fulfillment of a second Masters degree at DePaul. The thesis, The Greening of Chicago Theatres, sought to combine two of her favorite passions: Chicago theatre making, and greening to address climate change issues.
Chicago is a great theatre city, and considers itself very green, yet there existed no comprehensive effort among theatres to share tips and resources that would help them produce theatre in a more environmentally friendly way. In both London (Julie’s Bicycle organization) and New York (Broadway Green Alliance) there are good models that combine theatre greening with the mayors’ climate action plans. In her thesis, Nan surveyed six Chicago theatres about what greening they were currently doing, what they would like to be doing, and the intersection between desire to green and desire to green relative to everything else they have to do to produce a season of theatre. What she found was that there is a sympathetic resonance among theatre professionals to climate change issues, but little time and budget resources to easily address them. Using the models set forth by the Broadway Green Alliance (BGA) and Julie’s Bicycle, Nan brought her ideas to the League of Chicago Theatres, who embraced the idea of starting the Chicago Green Theatre Alliance (CGTA) under the umbrella of the League. The League, reaching over 200 Chicago theatres, provides a framework that allows for participation of theatres large, medium, and small.
The first meeting of the CGTA was held in Nov. of 2014 at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre with guest speaker, Dr. Allen Hershkowicz, a lead scientist of the National Resource Defense Council, and Susan Sampliner, co-chair of the BGA and company manager of all companies of Wicked worldwide. A compelling speaker on climate change, Dr. Hershkowicz impressed on all of us that action around mitigating climate change is a reality that we all need to embrace. If everyone just does better, we can make an impact. Trying to be perfectly green carries a message that has turned many people away from climate change issues. To instead frame the issue in a way that allows people to be better in their approach to greening their theatres proves to be a more effective call to action. In keeping with this idea, CGTA’s mission is to Encourage, Educate, and Motivate Chicago theatres to work together to adopt more environmentally friendly practices in all aspects of their organizations.