Theatre Shines Brighter with Broadway Green Alliance
The iconic marquee lights of Broadway shine brighter for the planet now—literally, with energy-efficient LED bulbs. Powering this change is Broadway Green Alliance (BGA), an industry-wide initiative that educates, motivates, and inspires the entire theatre community and its patrons to adopt environmentally friendlier practices. Its flagship program, Broadway Green Captains, has 100 percent participation on Broadway and is thriving off-Broadway, in touring shows, and in college and university theatres. In the program, each new show selects a volunteer member to help the production implement sustainable practices, from changing light bulbs to recycling sets. BGA Director Molly Braverman spoke with us from her office in New York City.
Parvati Magazine: What is the history behind the movement to “green” theatre? Why did you think you could make a difference on Broadway?
Molly Braverman: Many people and companies have been taking on this challenge for years. In 2008, a town hall for the Broadway community was called for everyone to share green ideas. The Broadway Green Alliance formed as an ad hoc committee and we never dissolved.
In 2016 to 2017 more people came to Broadway shows than to New York and New Jersey sporting events combined. As we harness the powerful voices of Broadway and share the actions we are doing to inspire those coming to our shows, that’s an exciting thing we, as theatre artists, can do.
Parvati Magazine: BGA is an ad hoc committee of The Broadway League, the national trade association for the commercial theatre industry. However, your work is mostly with the people who make up the Broadway community, rather than at the corporate level. Why have you taken that approach?
Molly Braverman: We work with our colleagues at the Broadway League to make broad sweeping changes that affect the whole Broadway community at once.
Anyone in a production can be a Green Captain— the head electrician, the star of the show, or the dresser. It allows for collective buy-in and better ideas, because it is not just one part of the Broadway community generating the idea. It is everyone together.
Parvati Magazine: How have you measured your impact over the years? What have been the greatest successes and challenges?
Molly Braverman: An early success was the marquee lights on Broadway. Originally, they were all incandescent, regular bulbs, burning a lot of carbon. The entire community has changed out all the marquees on Broadway to LED lights. This saves 700 tons of carbon annually.
As theatre artists, we are storytellers. We inspire others. Through our one action we inspire more action.
An example is the switch to rechargeable microphone batteries. Every theatre uses wireless mics that require batteries. [For years,] no show would change to rechargeable batteries because it was considered too risky and the batteries weren’t reliable. They could not risk having a mic cut out in the middle of the show. “Wicked” took that leap of faith and said, “We need to make this work. We need to figure out this technology.” They moved their entire Broadway company to rechargeable batteries and reduced their annual battery footprint from 15,000 disposable batteries to 96 rechargeable batteries. Other shows took notice and said, “If ‘Wicked’ believes in this technology and this choice to be more sustainable, we’re going to do it too.” Now, it’s industry standard across the country.
Retrofits for our very old theaters or historical landmark theaters are challenges. Even simple things like reusable water bottles can be a big cost, especially for a smaller nonprofit theatre company. We try to offset some of that with greening grants for New York-based, off-Broadway and non-profit companies.
Parvati Magazine: Can you tell us about the expansion of the Broadway Green Captain program into colleges? When did you start working with colleges and how many are signed up now?
Molly Braverman: The college Green Captain program [for student theatre productions] emerged early and is our most rapidly growing program. We’re currently in about 50 colleges and universities around the country. A faculty member is the anchor Green Captain and student Green Captains rotate yearly. Some faculty use our materials in their teaching, and some haven’t had to because they have robust theater sustainability programs.
Parvati Magazine: Parvati Magazine is part of GEM, Global Education for MAPS: a broad range of creative content dedicated to the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS). What is your perspective on MAPS and the power of creative expression to support global change?
Molly Braverman: I think the work you do is incredible. The fact that you are using creative storytelling to target hearts and minds to motivate and engage people in this conversation, in this dialogue, is thrilling. We support any initiative that brings people together to protect our natural resources. It’s certainly critical that we are protecting the Arctic Ocean.
Molly Braverman, is Director of Broadway Green Alliance (BGA), an ad hoc committee of The Broadway League and a fiscal program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. BGA’s mission is to help and inspire the theatre community, on Broadway and across the nation, to commit to adopting environmentally friendlier practices.