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‘Big Love’ is sustainable

Article Published: Apr. 19, 2012 | Modified: Apr. 30, 2012
‘Big Love’ is sustainable

ASU senior Hannah Orders, a technical theater major from Charlotte, sorts plastic bottles to be incorporated into the set of ‘Big Love,’ presented by Appalachian State University’s Department of Theatre and Dance April 25-29. The set’s other sustainable elements include the use of recycled newspapers, cardboard and fabric, and minimal use of paint.

Photo by Greg Williams

Love may be big, but is it sustainable?

It is when Derek Davidson is leading the way.

The Appalachian State University Department of Theatre and Dance is producing Charles Mee’s unconventional play, “Big Love,” a modern adaptation of one of the oldest Western plays, “The Suppliant Maidens,” by the Greek playwright, Aeschylus.

“Big Love” is described by the department as a “compelling postmodern tragicomedy,” and director Davidson is putting a new spin on this fresh version of an old play. He is making it an environmentally sustainable production.

“The play itself is a recycled script,” Davidson said, explaining why he thought this production was an appropriate project for a green approach. “Sustainability is an important issue, and theater is potentially a very wasteful art form.”

Davidson said the students were eager to participate in an environmentally sustainable play and came to the process with varying levels of awareness about green issues.

“I heard it was a very green school,” cast member Sloane Hickson said.

A theater major from Raleigh, Hickson said that ASU’s reputation for environmental awareness was a reason he chose the university. Since the sustainable aspect of the production falls primarily within the design and technical aspects, which are not added until late in the rehearsal process, Hickson said he can’t tell much difference yet, but noted, “The idea behind it gives you more ambition, you feel a little bit better about it.”

Freshman Molly Winstead has the official title, “Dramaturg specializing in Sustainability,” although she hadn’t deliberately pursued dramaturgy at ASU. When she attended the college auditions in the beginning of the year, the audition form asked students to indicate if they were interested in dramaturgy. “I didn’t know what it was, so I checked it,” she said.

She now defines dramaturgy as research about the context of the play, and Winstead specifically tracks the sustainability aspects of this production. She also contributed to the dramaturgical lobby displays and program notes.

“We’re incorporating a lot of recycled things, like with the tile for the hot tub, we’re using recycled Wal-mart bags,” Winstead said.

She also tracks how much wood the technical director reuses from previous sets, and how many of designer Martha Marking’s costumes are reused or reconfigured instead of purchased new or constructed.

“Sustainability isn’t just about recycling your plastic bottles, it’s about finding a way that lives most harmoniously with everything in the world for as long as possible,” Davidson said, explaining that the green aspect of “Big Love” goes beyond the yogurt containers used in the set.

As professor of dramaturgy, he also teaches students to look beyond the usual definition of “sustainable.” “Certain things shouldn’t be recycled, such as views about women we see in this play,” he said.

The plot of “Big Love” involves three sisters unhappily betrothed to three men. The siblings flee to avoid their arranged marriages, only to be pursued and forced to choose between taking husbands they don’t love or finding a difficult way out.

Davidson cites ASU’s theater department as being ahead of the curve regarding sustainability.
“Theatre and Dance is a responsible department,” he said. “They recycle everything, they reuse everything.”

When asked why this is the case, he said, “Because it’s Boone. And Boone’s cool.”

“Big Love” will be in the Valborg Theatre on the ASU campus from April 25 to 29. Evening shows are at 7:30 p.m., and the Sunday matinee is at 2 p.m. Because of language and violence, the show is recommended for adults. Tickets are $6 for students and $15 for adults and can be purchased online at or by calling (828) 262-3063.

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