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The Playhouse wants your trash

It Takes a Village

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As one wise thinker once sang, it's not easy being green. But it only takes a little effort to lessen your impact on the earth, and some people are greener than they think. For years, the Village Playhouse has been recycling its sets and props because it has no storage space. Tight budgets have necessitated trips to Goodwill instead of the mall to shop for costumes. So when founders Keely Enright and David Reinwald decided to start a green initiative, they found that they were already on the right track.

In 2008 they contacted Jorge Riano, a local eco-advisor. As part of their long-term plan to build a new theater, they wanted to make it as green as possible.

"A lot of people think they have to go get certified and spend a lot of money to be environmentally sustainable," says Riano, who owns and manages GreenBy3. "They don't have to do that."

Enright and Reinwald have been doing a lot more than that. Since they can't afford to throw anything away, props and set pieces are used as much as possible. All lumber is reconfigured continually until it's too small to use. Chairs and doors are reused and repainted for different shows. Furniture often comes from Habitat for Humanity, and is given back afterwards. Spotting familiar knick-knacks in a new show is part of the Playhouse experience.

"We have patrons who are committed to the green movement," says Enright. "People asked us to start looking in that direction, so going green became the most logical thing to do."

With Riano acting as a "great boot in the fanny" to keep them motivated, Enright and Reinwald developed an initiative that ties in as much as possible with their shows. For Mauritius (set in the world of stamp collecting), they're asking theatergoers to bring books to donate to Goodwill or MUSC. During Shipwrecked, they're asking for old newspapers to recycle. For Dead Man's Cell Phone, they're requesting cell phones and batteries. Other goals include using local products made from biodegradable and sustainable materials.

"We're trying to marry art with a greener world," says Enright. "If it's fun, silly, and good for the planet, we'll do it."

Enright wants to spread information about sustainability and get people fired up. "We're in a unique position to engage our patrons in a theatrical way," she says. "We want to do the right thing."

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