Global Mo`olelo

July 1, 2011

Back in 2009, Mo`olelo developed The Green Theater Choices Toolkit.

Since then, theaters, artists, and other organizations from around the world have requested the Toolkit and are using it as a reference guide for their own theater-making processes, using it as a measurement tool for grant applications, and finding new ways to green up their work.

Here’s a listing of some of the organizations that have contacted us about the Toolkit:

Band of Creatures, Australia
Bedlam Theatre, Minneapolis, MN
Book-It Repertory, Seattle, WA
Broadway Green Alliance, New York, NY
Center Theatre Group, Los Angeles, CA
Cleveland Public Theatre, Cleveland, OH
Creative Trust, Toronto, Canada
EcoLife, Belgium
Illinois Shakespeare Festival
McCarter Theatre, Princeton, NJ
Mudlark Theatre, Tasmania, Australia
Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR
Penumbra, Minneapolis, MN
PlayMakers Repertory Theatre, Chapel Hill, NC
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
Styrofoam Out of Schools, New York, NY
Vital Theatre Company, Brooklyn, NY

To receive a copy of Mo`olelo’s Green Theater Choices Toolkit, please email


SILA in Montreal

January 22, 2011

In 2009, Mo`olelo commissioned playwright Chantal Bilodeau to write a play that explores the intersection of race, class and the environment.  The result was SILA, a poetic and haunting piece that shines a light on climate change in the Canadian Arctic and the competing interests of the Inuit peoples, governments, and scientists.

Thanks to Emma Tibaldo, Artistic Director of Playwrights Workshop Montreal (PWM), Chantal and Mo`olelo’s Artistic Director Seema Sueko were invited to do a two day workshop of the play with a multilingual cast at PWM.

Chantal Bilodeau with Emma Tibaldo

SILA incorporates three languages: English, French and Inuktitut. The talented PWM cast were:
Leni Parker: Leanna
Chip Chuipka: Thomas
Pier Paquette: Jean
Carlo Mestroni: Raphael
Taqralik Partridge: Veronica and mama
Laurencio Arnastiaq: Kavageegai
Saimata Manning: Daughter and Nuliajuk
Jennifer Morehouse: Stage Directions (And Mama and Veronica on 1/24)
Amanda Kellock: Stage Directions on 1/24

Some of the PWM SILA Cast: Chip, Jennifer, Laurencio, Leni, Chantal, Carlo, et Pier

It was extremely valuable to hear the French, English and Inuktitut at this workshop. Actors Taqralik, Laurencio and Saimata also demontrated Inuit throat singing and offered valuable insight into Inuit perspectives and the variety of Inuktitut dialects.

Merci beaucoup, Emma, Sam, Laurencio, Taqralik, Carlo, Leni, Pier, Chip, Jennifer, et Amanda!

We just received a letter from the Education Director of Vital Theatre Company in New York(, informing us how they made use of Mo`olelo’s Green Theatre Choices Toolkit.  Here’s what she wrote:

“My Theater Company Vital Theatre Company partners with many at-risk schools in NYC. One of the schools, Fordham High School for the Arts in the West Bronx was asked to apply for capital funding through the Bronx Borough President to allow for upgrades for their arts facilities, which are in desperate needs of upgrades so that the student can be competitive with more privileged schools. The only caveat was that our proposal had to be “green”. I used your Toolkit as support grant materials to indicate the kind of choices we could make while doing our upgrades in the Department of Education buildings. I spent quite a bit of time researching “green theatre choices” online and your Toolkit was by far the most specific, most concise and useful back up materials that I could find. Thanks so much for making such an invaluable tool available.

P.S. We got the funding and plan to use your Toolkit as a guide while working with School Construction Authority to make the renovations.”

– Linda Ames Key
Education Director
Vital Theatre Company

The Center for Sustainable Practice awarded its first CSPA Fringe Award for Sustainable Production on June 27, 2010 to Presque Pret a Porter, produced by Dreams by Machine.  The recipient was chosen based on an online data form created by the CSPA, and informed by the Mo`olelo Green Theater Choices Toolkit. You can read the whole story here.

theater on the green

February 28, 2010

Check out this great article by James Hebert of The San Diego Union Tribune about our greening work:

Theater on the green

Mo’olelo ‘tool kit’ emerges as model for ecology-minded Broadway


Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 12:03 a.m.

Seema Sueko (shown at Miramar Recycling Center) and her theater company Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company have been at the forefront of developing strategies to reduce waste and other environmental impacts from the construction and disposal of used theater scenery.


Seema Sueko (shown at Miramar Recycling Center) and her theater company Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company have been at the forefront of developing strategies to reduce waste and other environmental impacts from the construction and disposal of used theater scenery.


“self (the remix)”

Mo’olelo Performing Arts Co.

When: Now in previews. Opens Friday.

Schedule: Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m., through March 21

Where: Tenth Avenue Theatre, 930 10th Ave., downtown

Tickets: $15-$35

Phone: (619) 342-7395


Seema Sueko (shown at Miramar Recycling Center) and her theater company Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company have been at the forefront of developing strategies to reduce waste and other environmental impacts from the construction and disposal of used theater scenery.


Mo’olelo’s 2008 production of “Permanent Collection.”

Green is the shade of the heroine’s skin in the massive Broadway hit “Wicked.” Green is also the color of the currency “Wicked” continues to haul in — some $1.3 million a week, more than six years after the show’s New York premiere.

But green also has come to mean something more than cold cash to the people behind that showbiz phenom and other hot-ticket Broadway shows. And at least a bit of the credit can go to a San Diego theater whose $168,000 yearly budget doesn’t match what “Wicked” makes in a day.

Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company puts on just two productions a year, each focusing on a specific social issue, from gun violence to racism to brain injury. Besides rolling out a wide array of educational efforts with every show, the community-minded company also has embraced the idea of reducing live theater’s environmental impact in general, devoting special attention to how sets are designed and discarded.

“We create these elaborate worlds,” as Mo’olelo co-founder and artistic director Seema Sueko puts it. “But what do we do with it all at the end?”

Mo’olelo won a grant from the national Theatre Communications Group in 2008 to develop a comprehensive green-theater “tool kit.” But while Sueko and Co. were working on that, a newly launched New York consortium called the Broadway Green Alliance, which was developing its own green-theater initiatives, happened to run across a set of working guidelines on the Mo’olelo Web site.

Now, Mo’olelo’s work (the company posted its finished tool kit in December) is being used as a model by the Broadway producers, administrators and technical people who have signed on to the Alliance.

“Part of the goal of the Broadway Green Alliance was not to reinvent the wheel, but to get out there and link up people to resources,” says Susan Sampliner, company manager of “Wicked” on Broadway and a co-chair of the BGA. “And we thought Mo’olelo had a fantastic set of resources, so we just leaned on them. And they were very gracious about it.”

Live theater likely doesn’t register in most minds as being particularly harmful to the planet. It’s not coal mining; at its most threatening it seems more likely to imperil delicate sensibilities than fragile ecosystems.

But a show can have a surprising variety of non-green components: potentially toxic paints, energy-intensive electronics, non-recyclable foams and fabrics, even Spandex can be a no-no, because of the way it’s manufactured. And then there are such aspects as how the audience (and equipment) gets to the theater in the first place.

Community, Sueko says, is “the starting point for all we do” at Mo’olelo, so she felt a sense of hypocrisy about being part of a theater world that prides itself on being socially conscious and yet knows that “the methods of theater are damaging.”

Mo’olelo’s latest show, Robert Farid Karimi’s hip-hop piece “self (the remix),” now in previews at the Tenth Avenue Theatre downtown, is physically about as green as can be. It has no set to speak of — mainly just Karimi and DJ D Double.

While Sueko says that wasn’t the prime reason for picking the show, she adds that “knowing we didn’t have to truck in a bunch of scenery and damage the environment that way was appealing.”

To Sueko, if theater isn’t as green as it could be, the reason has more to do with a lack of information than of will. That’s been the point of publicizing the tool kit, which offers detailed environmental “score cards” on everything from wood products to textiles to “audience interface materials” (playbills, food containers, shade-grown organic coffees).

“I think everybody wants to do the right thing when it comes to the environment,” she says. “But it’s hard to know what the right thing is.”

It turns out that going green can also save some of that other green. Sampliner of “Wicked” says the first step the Broadway company took was to start using rechargeable batteries instead of disposables to power the show’s abundance of wireless microphones and backstage flashlights.

“We had used huge amounts of batteries,” Sampliner says. “We’d put them in buckets and tell people to take them home — they were only partly used, because you didn’t want them to cut out in the middle of a show.”

No one wants Elphaba’s voice to go silent at the climax of “Defying Gravity,” which was part of the reason there was a reluctance to use rechargeables in the first place; the fear was they wouldn’t have enough staying power. Not only did that concern prove unfounded, but the switch is now saving the company $26,000 a year.

Many shades of green

Locally, Mo’olelo isn’t alone in its green thinking. J*Company Youth Theatre, based in University City, rolled out an Earth-minded season last year that included reusing paints and sets, tracking all materials in and out to reduce waste, and educating cast and crew on good environmental practices.

And although Bruce Cartier of the Technomania Circus was following a kind of religion of reuse long before green became chic, the thinking behind his company’s inventive sets fits into the new, low-impact consciousness.

Cartier likes to invoke the word “obtanium” to describe the mishmash of found objects he uses to create the worlds of Technomania’s whimsical, unpredictable productions. They take place at the Center for the Amusing Arts, an outdoor performance space constructed on Cartier’s property in Barrio Logan.

Cartier developed his sensibility growing up in the desert town of Ocotillo Wells, watching his father “put together things in weird ways to help them run.”

Technomania, he notes, is “a no-budget circus, trying to make something out of nothing. So stuff that people throw away can still be used. To me, a lot of that stuff is still valuable.

“(Assembling things) in the wrong way, in a different way — I love that kind of spirit,” he says.

Cartier finds his materials discarded in alleyways or advertised as freebies on Craigslist. He has managed to round up enough metal to construct an 8-foot-tall UFO for Technomania’s next production, a spoofy alien romp that opens March 20.

Cartier also notes that Technomania is located right next to a stop on the trolley’s Orange Line.

Transportation is likewise an aspect of Mo’olelo’s green mission; the company offers $5 discount coupons via e-mail to theatergoers who get to the show by carpooling, driving a hybrid, bicycling or using public transportation.

That’s not such an issue on Broadway, where most theaters are located within a few blocks of a subway stop. But the theaters there are finding other ways to chip away at their environmental impact.

Sampliner says that within the space of a single year, nearly all the bulbs on Broadway marquees were switched from incandescent to LED lights or other more energy-efficient types.

On the question, though, of whether better choices for the environment might lead to artistic compromises, Sampliner says it’s too early to say. With the long lead times of the typical Broadway show, there hasn’t been much opportunity for productions to incorporate green thinking from the earliest conceptual stages.

“At this point, we realize a lot of our designers don’t know what the greener choices are,” Sampliner says. One good sign, she says, is that she now gets frequent calls from other theaters asking what steps they should take.

Sueko likewise doesn’t expect instant results, especially when theaters lately have had to focus so much energy on simple survival. The rich tradition of theater, the way so much of it is still handmade, also means old ways can be slow to evolve.

“As progressive as we think of theater as being, it’s hard to change the way things have always been done,” Sueko says. “We’re very green at being green.”

Understanding FSC

February 2, 2010

As part of Mo`olelo’s greening initiative, we print all of our materials on FSC Certified papers (FSC is the Forest Stewardship Council) and at FSC certified print houses. Curious about FSC?  Neenah Papers will be hosting a free webinar titled “Understanding FSC: What it means to you and your clients” on February 23 at 11 AM PST / 2 PM EDT.  Here’s the link for more information and to register:

Check it out.

Green Theater Choices Toolkit

December 19, 2009

Mo`olelo’s Green Theater Choices Toolkit is completed!

Click here to read about it.

more greening news

November 12, 2009

Scenic Designer David F. Weiner and Artistic Director Seema Sueko will be speaking — via skype — at the LDI Green Day Conference on Thursday, November 19 in Orlando, Florida. They’ll share the lastest versions of Mo`olelo’s Green Theater Choices Scorecards. You can read about the conference here:

You can download the latest Green Theater Choices Scorecards here:

Mo`olelo’s Artistic Director, Seema Sueko, is heading to New York this weekend to participate in TCG’s (Theatre Communication Group’s) Fall Forum! She’ll be speaking at a breakout session called “The Green Opportunity” at 2:30 PM on Saturday, Nov 7, where she’ll talk about Mo`olelo’s greening initiative and share the latest versions of the Green Theater Choices Toolkit and Scorecards. Her co-panelists are Charlie Deull of Clark Transfer and Broadway Green Alliance, Seth Greenleaf of GFour Productions, and Susan Medak of Berkeley Repertory Theatre. They are all doing amazing working in greening the theater industry. If you’ll be in New York, come to the Fall Forum. Details and info here:

The Land that Never Melts

August 23, 2009

Photo Mount Thor

Chantal writes:

I’m back in Iqaluit after visiting Pangnirtung and Auyuittuq (The Land That Never Melts) National Park. We saw a dozen of glaciers (all retreating unfortunately) and even witnessed one on them lose great chunks of ice and rocks that came tumbling down the side of the mountain with a great roar. On the picture, you can see our tent not far from Mount Thor.