Sunday, December 2, 2007

Enter a Greener Limelight

Enter a Greener Limelight
The Australian
Fiona Gruber November 29, 2007

EVERY theatre has a green room, but few are green in the modern sense. With their banks of dazzling stage lights and foyers ablaze nightly, theatres are energy-hungry beasts. Add to that the costs and waste associated with sets and props and the mountains of paper generated with every production and the world of make-believe begins to look grim.

On a scale of environmental evil, a theatre company is small fry. Its glamorous cousin, film, is much more greedy (the Californian film industry is, after the oil industry, the state's second largest polluter). Nevertheless, even a stripped-back performance of Waiting for Godot leaves a carbon footprint.

At a public forum at Melbourne's Malthouse Theatre earlier this month, artistic director Michael Kantor outlined concerns and plans for improvements at his venue, including solar power, water harvesting and recycling everything from paper to the steel used in stage sets. Joining him on the platform were Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton, who will jointly take up the artistic director role at Sydney Theatre Company in January. Although unwilling to be drawn on specific measures before they take the helm, Blanchett and Upton outlined their green philosophy.
"Theatre's role in any society is to be in engaged dialogue with the fundamental questions of the day," says Upton. "A person cannot simply talk about climate change, write plays about climate change and have forums about climate change; it's an issue that demands active engagement."
The forum, entitled Five Minutes to Midnight, was moderated by science broadcaster and writer Robin Williams and featured climate change heavyweights Don Henry, executive director of the Australian Conservation Foundation, and Grant Blashki, from Doctors for the Environment and Al Gore's nominated local presenter on climate change.

Faced with prophesies of doom if we continue on our wasteful path, will the theatre of the future return, as in Shakespeare's day, to daylight diversions under an open sky? With two theatres and backstage facilities at the Wharf in Walsh Bay, the Sydney Theatre over the road, and the Sydney Opera House's Drama Theatre, the STC's properties are a bit more lavish than an Elizabethan roundhouse.

This year, 22 productions played to an estimated 330,000 audience, administered by 102 full-time staff. Working with their landlords, the NSW Government, the new STC artistic directors aim to reduce energy consumption by 20 per cent almost immediately and to generate 60 per cent to 70 per cent of power requirements from photo-voltaic panels on the roof, design and authorities being willing.

The company's carbon footprint is in the process of being audited.

Although smaller, with three performance spaces in one building and a separate workshop, the Malthouse, a former centre of the Carlton and United Brewery beer-making operation, is an edifice from a more profligate era and bedevilled by its design.

"Like the Sydney Theatre Company, we inherited 19th-century buildings with heritage overlays," says Kantor. "The Malthouse was fitted out in the late 1980s with no concept of what was to come, in environmental terms."

The Malthouse has just launched its Greenlight Project, a combination of redesign, reduction in waste and a carbon offset scheme. An audit by RMIT students in the school of global studies, social science and planning found that the theatre generated 600 tonnes of carbon annually, equivalent to 2200 medium-sized cars.

"Sixty per cent of that is from theatre lights, they're the killer, and air-conditioning is whopping too," Kantor says. The convention is to keep the theatre at a constant 21C: he would like to see a greater audience tolerance for a wider band of temperature, between 18C and 25c. Lights generate a lot of heat. Lower wattage Source 4 lanterns are two to three times more efficient, and Kantor is waiting on a source of funding for them.

A new roof is planned, but it will be fixed over the original metal one, and further aims for the building do not include messing about with its mix of mellow red brick or exposed timber. "We don't want to disguise its beautiful character," Kantor says.

An appraisal of ecological sustainability by environmental architecture firm Design Inc points to possibilities including solar power and a shaded walkway in front of the building to reduce the need for artificial cooling inside as well as providing shelter outside. Project Andromeda, a company that helps other companies reduce their carbon footprint, has also come on board in a 12-month pro bono deal. Their services include the purchase of carbon credits for investment.

Unlike the Blanchett-Upton team, which has signalled an intention to reduce ticket prices rather than raise them, the less well-endowed Malthouse is introducing a carbon offset charge of 50c on tickets sold through the box office, and $2 on each season's subscription, in order to buy these credits.

The carbon credit scheme is not without contention: consumers can end up bearing the cost for a company that reaps the publicity benefit of looking green, without necessarily being so. Project Andromeda lists offset as the last resort, after all other areas of recycling, redesign and alternative sources of heat, cool and light, but it is a pragmatic step for companies at the beginning of a greening journey.

Even more ambitious plans are afoot in South Australia. The Adelaide Festival is claiming a world first as a CO2-free festival, a bold statement given its program stretches across 45 venues and 245 hours of events. A local company, Carbon Planet, will audit the March 2008 festival in order to assess the overall footprint, and while festival organisers plan to recycle and access green power wherever possible, a significant part of its carbon vanishing act will be through offset, a cost being passed along to ticket buyers, albeit on a voluntary basis.

If the audit includes the airfares of performers and visitors, freight costs for sets, and the tanks of petrol being consumed as audience members drive to and fro (which they will do, despite promotion of public transport alternatives) then the footprint will belong to a giant, but not a jolly green one.

The Carbon Planet deal is for the next three biennial events.

"We will try and neutralise as much as possible now and realistically identify those we can manage in the future," says Colin Coster, the festival's director of marketing and business development.

"Although it's a bit dangerous to put up our hand and say 'We're neutral', with so many partners and visiting companies, as far as the elements we manage, we will achieve neutrality, or very close."

Melbourne and Perth have new arts venues coming on stream in the next two years. In Melbourne, Ashton Raggatt McDougall's design for the new Melbourne Theatre Company venue on Southbank Boulevard, due for completion in 2009, will incorporate the latest range of
green features.

So will Kerry Hill Architects' new performing arts complex in Perth, also under construction. The daily battles with sun, bad natural ventilation, excessive water use and badly designed lighting systems should all be avoided. In a bold civic move, Perth is doing away with on-site parking, forcing punters and staff to rely on the public transport system or bicycles.
The MTC plans to buy bikes for its staff to cycle between Southbank and its refurbished rehearsal and administrative building 1km away.

Overseas, London mayor Ken Livingstone has pledged to reduce the carbon emissions of London's commercial theatres - which in 2006 had a combined revenue of pound stg. 400million ($943 million) - by 60 per cent, in line with his Climate Change Action Plan. The Arcola Theatre in Dalston, North London, is billing itself as the world's first carbon-neutral theatre.

With its initiatives, Australian theatre can also be a world leader. As Blanchett observed at the Malthouse forum, at its base, theatre is a cultural recycler of stories, narratives, and characters. It should also be able to recycle its hardware.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Seven Secrets of Inspiring Leaders

By Carmine Gallo
BusinessWeek Online
Thu Oct 11, 8:08 AM ET

American business professionals are uninspired. Only 10% of employees look forward to going to work and most point to a lack of leadership as the reason why, according to a recent Maritz Research poll. But it doesn't have to be that way. All business leaders have the power to inspire, motivate, and positively influence the people in their professional lives.

For the past year, I have been interviewing renowned leaders, entrepreneurs, and educators who have an extraordinary ability to sell their vision, values, and themselves. I was researching their communications secrets for my new book, Fire Them Up. What I found were seven techniques that you can easily adopt in your own professional communications with your employees, clients, and investors.

1. Demonstrate enthusiasm -- constantly. Inspiring leaders have an abundance of passion for what they do. You cannot inspire unless you're inspired yourself. Period. Passion is something I can't teach. You either have passion for your message or you don't. Once you discover your passion, make sure it's apparent to everyone within your professional circle. Richard Tait sketched an idea on a napkin during a cross-country flight, an idea to bring joyful moments to families and friends. His enthusiasm was so infectious that he convinced partners, employees, and investors to join him. He created a toy and game company called Cranium. Walk into its Seattle headquarters and you are hit with a wave of fun, excitement, and engagement the likes of which is rarely seen in corporate life. It all started with one man's passion.

2. Articulate a compelling course of action. Inspiring leaders craft and deliver a specific, consistent, and memorable vision. A goal such as "we intend to double our sales by this time next year," is not inspiring. Neither is a long, convoluted mission statement destined to be tucked away and forgotten in a desk somewhere. A vision is a short (usually 10 words or less), vivid description of what the world will look like if your product or service succeeds. Microsoft's (NasdaqGS:MSFT - News) Steve Ballmer once said that shortly after he joined the company, he was having second thoughts. Bill Gates and Gates' father took Ballmer out to dinner and said he had it all wrong. They said Ballmer saw his role as that of a bean counter for a startup. They had a vision of putting a computer on every desk, in every home. That vision -- a computer on every desk, in every home -- remains consistent to this day. The power of a vision set everything in motion.

3. Sell the benefit. Always remember, it's not about you, it's about them. In my first class at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, I was taught to answer the question, "Why should my readers care?" That's the same thing you need to ask yourself constantly throughout a presentation, meeting, pitch, or any situation where persuasion takes place. Your listeners are asking themselves, what's in this for me? Answer it. Don't make them guess.

4. Tell more stories. Inspiring leaders tell memorable stories. Few business leaders appreciate the power of stories to connect with their audiences. A few weeks ago I was working with one of the largest producers of organic food in the country. I can't recall most, if any, of the data they used to prove organic is better. But I remember a story a farmer told. He said when he worked for a conventional grower, his kids could not hug him at the end of the day when he got home. His clothes had to be removed and disinfected. Now, his kids can hug him as soon as he walks off the field. No amount of data can replace that story. And now guess what I think about when I see the organic section in my local grocery store? You got it. The farmer's story. Stories connect with people on an emotional level. Tell more of them.

5. Invite participation. Inspiring leaders bring employees, customers, and colleagues into the process of building the company or service. This is especially important when trying to motivate young people. The command and control way of managing is over. Instead, today's managers solicit input, listen for feedback, and actively incorporate what they hear. Employees want more than a paycheck. They want to know that their work is adding up to something meaningful.

6. Reinforce an optimistic outlook. Inspiring leaders speak of a better future. Robert Noyce, the co-founder of Intel INTC, said, "Optimism is an essential ingredient of innovation. How else can the individual favor change over security?" Extraordinary leaders throughout history have been more optimistic than the average person. Winston Churchill exuded hope and confidence in the darkest days of World War II. Colin Powell said that optimism was the secret behind Ronald Reagan's charisma. Powell also said that optimism is a force multiplier, meaning it has a ripple effect throughout an organization. Speak in positive, optimistic language. Be a beacon of hope.
7. Encourage potential. Inspiring leaders praise people and invest in them emotionally. Richard Branson has said that when you praise people they flourish; criticize them and they shrivel up. Praise is the easiest way to connect with people. When people receive genuine praise, their doubt diminishes and their spirits soar. Encourage people and they'll walk through walls for you.
By inspiring your listeners, you become the kind of person people want to be around. Customers will want to do business with you, employees will want to work with you, and investors will want to back you. It all starts with mastering the language of motivation.

For more, listen to an audio slide show with additional examples of how to use these techniques.

Friday, June 1, 2007

VARIETY / Mainstream embracing musicals

Mainstream embracing musicals Tuners invading films, TV, Internet
By DAVID ROONEY, GORDON COX Posted: Fri., Jun. 1, 2007, 1:13pm PT

What is it with musicals lately?
One week on "The Sopranos," someone dies of a stroke after seeing "Jersey Boys." The next week, Meadow's boyfriend has front-row mezzanine tickets for "Grey Gardens." On "Brothers & Sisters," a character is about to ship out to Iraq, planning to spend his last night in town seeing "Wicked."
Throughout the season, "Ugly Betty" has featured homages to "Dreamgirls," "Hairspray" and "West Side Story," while "Scrubs" aired a tuner episode with original songs by the Tony-winning "Avenue Q" team.
Musicals are once again becoming part of the pop-culture consciousness, exerting an influence on advertising, chart-topping songs and, of course, movies.
"There's a new chic to the concept of the musical that wasn't there before," says Michael Mayer, director of Broadway's "Spring Awakening" and the Atlantic Theater Company's "10 Million Miles," a road romance that uses songs by Patty Griffin.
After regularly yielding chart hits through the first half of the 20th century, tuners slipped out of vogue from the late '60s onward, exiled into nerd-dom. Yes, a few blockbusters had cultural impact beyond Broadway, such as "A Chorus Line" in the 1970s or the British megamusical invasion of the '80s. But otherwise, tuners have barely registered on the hipness radar for decades.
"Musicals are thought of as mainstream culture again, as they used to be," says David Stone, lead producer of "Wicked" and "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."
In advertising, Claire Danes and Patrick Wilson danced for Gap khakis to Ethel Merman singing "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better."
In pop music, Gwen Stefani has been lacing her hits with showtune samples, from "The Sound of Music" and "Fiddler on the Roof," while Beyonce's video for "Get Me Bodied" appropriated Bob Fosse's "Rich Man's Frug" moves from "Sweet Charity," also throwing in a nod to "Funny Face."
Mayer credits the flamboyant, realism-flouting aesthetic of Baz Luhrmann films like "Strictly Ballroom," "Romeo + Juliet" and "Moulin Rouge" for helping to open the minds of a new generation to the language of musicals. "There was a kitschiness to them that I think a lot of young people responded to," he suggests.
Pop shows like "Wicked," "Legally Blonde" and "Hairspray" have helped shake the dust off the image of the old-fashioned Broadway musical. Those and similar shows haven't always earned a unanimous critical embrace but have broadened the traditional tuner audience to a new generation, particularly -- but not exclusively -- teen and tweener girls.
"'Wicked' now is part of the vernacular," observes Stone.
Mayer agrees that the "Wizard of Oz" backstory tuner helped alter perceptions of the potential for musicals to achieve massive commercial popularity. "'Wicked' is kind of the model for a real shift in the paradigm," he says.
The age of irony also has been good for the Broadway demographic, with self-satirizing shows like "The Producers" and "Monty Python's Spamalot," or irreverent comedies like "Avenue Q" contributing to make musicals more guy-friendly. It's far easier to imagine frat boys singing along to "The Internet Is for Porn" than to "I Feel Pretty."
Shows that poke affectionate fun at the musical form, such as "Curtains" and "The Drowsy Chaperone," have the double benefit of appealing to die-hard tunerphiles while making other folks feel they are in on the joke.
The audience expansion into new demographics has contributed to the steady climb in Broadway figures for the past few years, hitting $938.5 million during the just-concluded 2006-07 season. As always, musicals represent the lion's share of grosses, with 90% of box office.
Many pundits point to pop-culture phenomena like YouTube, with its saturation of music clips, for helping to consolidate the resurgence of interest in tuners. One of the year's most popular entries on the video-sharing site (and winner of one of the inaugural YouTube Awards) was groover-geek ensemble OK Go doing a precision-choreographed routine on treadmills to "Here It Goes Again," which would be right at home in any contempo pop musical (and could serve as a companion piece to the jump-rope workout number that opens the second act of "Legally Blonde").
An entire generation has grown up on music videos that pair song and narrative.
"There's a real story there in a lot of videos," offers Mayer. "They have a claim on the imagination of young people who didn't really have a connection to the old MGM movie-musicals."
A rock musical that marries timeless teen angst and sexual confusion to songs by Duncan Sheik, "Spring Awakening" in particular has benefited from a direct connection to youth culture, getting marketing leverage from its use of YouTube, iTunes and other Web music sources.
"We're on people's iPods, and not just theater people," says Mayer.
No one underestimates the influence of "American Idol." That behemoth and its many imitators have repopularized vocal performances, which had been virtually absent from the primetime TV landscape since the passing of the network variety show. Then there are "Dancing With the Stars" and its terpsichorean brethren, making hoofers hot again.
And let's not forget the surprise success of Disney Channel's 2006 telepic "High School Musical."
"People gave 'High School Musical' a chance because it was on basic cable, so it was essentially free," says Mark Kaufman, exec VP of production and theater at New Line, the studio behind the '88 John Waters film "Hairspray," the stage tuner and the bigscreen version with John Travolta. "That helped open the door, because people thought, 'Wait a minute, musicals are OK.'"
Aside from "Hairspray," upcoming bigscreen tuners include "Sweeney Todd" and "Mamma Mia!" as well as Julie Taymor's long-delayed "Across the Universe," woven around songs by the Beatles.
Deals also seem inevitable for film adaptations of "Jersey Boys," "Spring Awakening" and, further down the track, "Wicked."
And "American Idol" can reflect some of the spotlight onto Broadway. "The Color Purple" and "Hairspray" are among the Rialto tuners to reap box office benefits from casting "Idol" alums.
"People want to see them," New Line's Kaufman says. "To take them and plug them into shows is a no-brainer."
"I think the obsession with talent, like with 'American Idol,' all contributes back and forth between Broadway and television," says Stone. "We don't realize it now, but we're living in -- if not another golden age -- another explosion of activity on Broadway."
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