October 28, 2021

By Alaina Uricheck ’24

Degenstein Center Theater Sets and Costumes Produced Sustainably

In selecting a theme for its Main Stage season, Susquehanna University’s Department of Theatre made a bold decision: climate change.

Cast with the hopes of inspiring students to make sustainable lifestyle changes, no matter how small, the theme will be represented on and off stage through the academic year.

“The season is a good mix of different approaches to the subject in tone and style,” said Jeanne Tiehen, assistant professor of theatre. “We are producing some notable playwrights and are also staging some new works too.”

The department is making changes behind the scenes to become more sustainable.

Caleb Stroman, lighting and scenic designer and assistant professor of theatre, has switched to using digital copies of scripts rather than paper ones and is trying to limit the amount of new scenic elements that are built for each show. New pieces are constructed in a manner that reduces the amount of waste in building them and maximizes the amount of material that can be reused after the show is over.

“Ninety-five percent of the lumber purchased for the first show of the season, Mermaid of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, was used directly in the show and the remaining 5% will be used to help students learn how to use power tools,” Stroman said.

The department is also in the process of replacing most of its lighting equipment with LEDs, which use less electricity and produce less waste.

In the costume shop, Artist in Costumes Elizabeth Ennis is also trying to learn how to make her work more sustainable.

“The fashion industry is one of the worst contributors to pollution and waste, but mending existing garments, thrifting instead of buying new, and opting for natural fibers over synthetics whenever possible help reduce that waste,” Ennis said. Students who work in the costume shop are going to great lengths to ensure pieces they create can easily be deconstructed so that the elements can be used in the future.

“I hope students will see our productions, see the work we’re doing behind the scenes, and think about what they themselves can do to help the environment,” Ennis said.

The lineup for the remaining shows for this season’s Main Stage is Urinetown, The Musical, by Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis, Nov. 11-14; A Cycle: Short Climate Change Plays, by various playwrights, Feb. 24-27, 2022; Smaller Floods, by Evan Peterson, April 7-10, 2022; and An Enemy of the People, by Henrik Ibsen, adapted by Anna Andes, April 28-May 1, 2022.