What was the case study project about?
This case study wants to be a technical analysis of my expectations and disappointment, hope and rewards, in my 4 years of experience in theatre/Opera/festival/digital shows. I am a young set designer and I’ve been so very lucky to have the opportunity to work in many shows and in different contests in the performing arts since the very start, in big and important venues, next to famous artists and directors, but also inside small young organizations and in virtual reality events. I’ve always been concerned about minimize wastes and design in an efficient way since my formation in Industrial Design, and I initially believed that a set, made mainly in wood and metal and reused over decades in replicas, was a virtuous example of sustainable design. Furthermore, I took a theatre career because I truly believed that theatre was the highest art to convey values and reflections on society and on the world’s issues and unfairness, like the climate crisis. In this span of time, I’ve learned that I was quite right on this last point: theatre is still one of the most emotional and deep form of art that can create awareness but recently, especially in Opera, it became a tool for “star” directors and designers to maximise the effect on the audience, a mere aesthetic exercise to prove their abilities or mark their style. I was completely wrong about the first: there’s a huge waste in theatre, not only of raw material (set designers don’t think about scraps) and the reuse of set (not all the sets see the stage a second time, some are kept in rented containers for years, eroding the budget, or destroyed, or just transformed into new sets), but also of CO2 emission, for human and material transports and light/heating of the venues.
What does ecological thinking mean to you and how do you approach it in your work?
Besides the scenography, I’m also a very curious systemic thinker, an industrial designer end an interdisciplinary artist committed in finding more efficient, just and sustainable ways of creating art and inspire people. This are my core values/tools: • Systemic thinking - a discipline, or more exactly a methodology, that consists in the analysis of the income and output of a system that provide its functions, and point to the optimizations of those fluxes in the direction of the so called circular-economy (turning the waste/output fluxes of a system into resources fluxes of another system or reducing them pointing to zero); In theatre and Opera this could be applied, for example, by creating a network of theatres that exchange old or discarded set pieces instead of creating new sets from scratch or in an optimization of transport by sending a production to close venues or hire local singers/actors to reduce the CO2 emissions; • Problem-solving attitude and design optimization - be open to solution that you might have not considered, organize meetings with other member of the artistic or technical team to seek different options and achieve an easier and better product; • Analysis of peculiarities – before starting abstract concepts of a new design and struggle to find ideas and solutions, it’s good to start from the analysis of what already exists, the particularities of a piece or a venue, the pre-existing materials that can be adapted; • Collaborations and Community – giving help and offering your own skills to support a person or an organization that is running on your values, will always rewards in new opportunities, in personal improvement or in income, but mainly creating a network will keep you motivated, knowing that there are many people fighting for the same reason.
Aims and Objectives
What were the aims and objectives of the project?
What did you do to challenge the status quo?
Four example from my experience on how to improve the Theatre Industry:
• during my first working experience in the technical department of a big venue, a huge effort was put in designing, creating and finishing five expensive set elements that made up a scene; the process was complex and delayed; when they were ready, the theatre decided to show the pieces straight on stage for the rehearsal to avoid more delay and save some time for possible fixing; when the designer saw them, not aware of the process and seeing something different from his expectations, just decided to discard them all. Specific policies or 3D simulations should be applied to avoid this in the future.
• In 2020 I was called to design a reduced version of an Opera for a Festival, designing just a painted backdrop and props, but when pandemic happened, sponsors retired, other plays were cancelled, and there was no budget for my part of set. The artistic team, decided to do not cancel the festival and make a virtue of necessity: they bought only a Tripolina curtain and organized the whole festival in streaming, lighting the curtain for concerts and letting me transform my design into a Video Animated projection, that worked incredibly well for the piece.
• In 2021 I helped in the organization of a festival and I tried to make it “100% green”; even if we didn’t’ succeed in practice, the process taught us where the problems and wastes were and we worked on many proposal that maybe could be applied elsewhere.
• I’ve collaborated with a Californian organization, they made me discover loads of digital tools for creatives (shared online boards, 3D virtual worlds) that could easily substitute the in person meeting and make the design process more sustainable.
What are some of the best decisions in relation to ecological motivation and action you’ve made related to this project?
Sharing is Caring
What is your advice and best tips for other people and teams who want to bring these values into their work?
How can you be more accountable through your actions as a creative professional?
What should Theatre do then? What’s the aim of all the effort and resources put into an theatre piece if it doesn’t help the discussion of nowadays main problems and issues, if it doesn’t face the current climate or war crisis and if “it does not aim to prepare the future”, as the epitaph of the Teatro Massimo facade in my hometown says? A huge transformation is needed to make the Theatre Industry 100% sustainable, but a first step in this is just about acknowledging the rule that theatre and all the performing arts have in our society and understanding the communication power that our work can have on the audience. Creating more pieces about sustainability is vital, but more must be done from the inside to analyse the current situation, find other ways to optimize the system at every level of creation and make the theatres examples of climate action. My personal initiative to achieve this were: - to create and online Network to let people connect, read and chat about sustainable projects and present their ideas (www.hylo.com/groups/artrenewspeople); - to search and get in touch with the various organization that are moving in this direction; - and, anytime is possible, just to talk about sustainability with Colleagues and friends to seek more people ready to take action and make the difference (in this way I met the author of a important project, BiOpera).