The magic of Broadway turns guitar strings into bracelets, playbills into flowers, and trash into Tony Award-winning set designs. With roots in folk art, the use of salvaged materials deliberately raises the intrinsic and monetary value of recycled objects. It gives items a second life, and transforms the mundane into the extraordinary. Through the manipulation of forms, mass and surfaces, individuals craft waste into functional products and works of art.
Popping up at events like BroadwayCon, and selling out at the Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction, Crafters are now coloring the Great-White-Way green with special up-cycled novelties unique to the theatre Industry. Theatre enthusiast & librarian, Ronni Krasnow creates “collage art with a theatrical twist” from Playbills, flyers and magazines (Facebook.com/broadwayglue). Ms. Krasnow started upcycling when she wanted to create a gift for her dear friends, songwriters Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty. She enjoyed the experience so much that she continued working on pieces that focus on particular shows, composers, themes, and sometimes just based on a color alone. “I love that all my materials are upcycled. It’s fun to create something new and different from something familiar”
Ronni Krasnow, Broadway Blues, 2014, 11×14 inches, mixed media collage
“It’s a little like doing a jigsaw puzzle, just figuring out where the various pieces fit,” Ms Krasnow says. Her two cats fancy her work as well, and love interfering with her layouts from time to time.
Ronni Krasnow, Some of Sondheim, 2014 11X14 inches, mixed media collage
Recycling breaks consumer materials down so that their base materials can be used in new consumer products. Items that are up-cycled become refashioned, but still maintain their characteristics. “I am a librarian,” Ms. Krasnow says, ”so I am always looking at the various materials we discard to see if there is anything I can (re)use.” When looking at a book or magazine now, I am much more focused on typeface, color, and word size than on the actual articles!”
While quite beautiful, the nature of up-cycled work is inherently a political statement. For BGA member & communications guru Sasha Pensanti, it’s a lot of both. Sasha began up-cycling While working on multiple Broadway productions. Show after show, she watched as Playbills were continually thrown away. ”I kept asking why we couldn’t do something,” she said. “The answer always had to do with union rules. I didn’t like that answer.” Sasha decided to take it upon herself to make paper flowers from the discarded playbills. From there Ms. Pensanti developed a whole line of products: frames, jars for the flowers, canvases, hair clips/headbands…
Color Playbill Bouquets by Sasha Pensanti
“I’ve become conscious of a lot more waste than before. I’m also really careful to use recycled boxes when shipping my flowers, and instead of buying bubble wrap I use the extra playbill pieces, crumble them up and they make great packing materials! 100% recycled!” Ms. Pensanti said. Similar circumstances precipitated collage artist Stephen Winterhalter (The Art of Broadway: www.etsy.com/shop/theartofbroadway) to begin up-cycling playbills into works of art. Stephen’s work emerged when he wanted to do something with his enormous Playbill collection so they wouldn’t end up in the trash. “It started out as a small idea that just kept growing. By time the holidays rolled in I had over 100 orders,” Stephen said.
Custom Broadway Playbill Art College by Stephen Winterhalter, 12X12 inches
Stephen has also been working with WICKED on Broadway since 2005, and calls the Gershwin Theatre his second home. As of late, people have taken to his collages. “People buy them to commemorate a trip they took to NYC, all the shows from their favorite composer, or as a gift for a Broadway fan,” Stephen says. “I also get a lot of theatre educators contacting me about pieces for their school.”
Custom Broadway Playbill Art Collage by Stephen Winterhalter, 12X12 inches
“The idea of giving a second or third life to Playbills is what ultimately propels these projects,” Stephen says. “People get a Playbill at a show, and sometimes they just leave them on the floor afterwards. This is the perfect opportunity to take those Playbills and turn them into something new. Another example is when a show closes or there’s a major cast change that renders a batch of Playbills unusable at the theatre. I can use those!” Stephen’s idea of getting multiple uses out of a single Playbill is sustainable thinking. His friends contact him when they are discarding their playbills, sometimes by the bin, and he always collects them. All of Stephen’s work is crafted by hand. He creates the frames, and uses the excess paper from inside the frames as gluing mats so nothing is wasted. Stephen also relishes in the idea of the puzzle. “It’s really satisfying when you finish a piece and think, man, these all look great together!” Check out Stephen’s instagram for more of his work @Art_of_Broadway
You can also find products where function influences form, and familiar every-day items and accessories are fabricated from waste material. There are chairs made from street signs, dresses made from candy wrappers, and homes made out shipping containers; the list goes on, and the possibilities are endless. Bagitude, a company based out of Chicago, creates handbags from playbills. Now it’s your turn! If you or someone you know is a Broadway fan and creative up-cycler, share your work with us on twitter: @broadwaygreen, facebook.com/BroadwayGreenAlliance, & instagram: broadwaygreenalliance.
The Broadway Green Alliance was founded in 2008 in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council. The Broadway Green Alliance (BGA) is an ad hoc committee of The Broadway League and a fiscal program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids. Along with Julie’s Bicycle in the UK, the BGA is a founding member of the International Green Theatre Alliance. The BGA has reached tens of thousands of fans through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other media.
At the BGA, we recognize that it is impossible to be 100% “green” while continuing activity and – as there is no litmus test for green activity – we ask instead that our members commit to being greener and doing better each day. As climate change does not result from one large negative action, but rather from the cumulative effect of billions of small actions, progress comes from millions of us doing a bit better each day. To become a member of the Broadway Green Alliance we ask only that you commit to becoming greener, that you name a point person to be our liaison, and that you will tell us about your green-er journey.
The BGA is co-chaired by Susan Sampliner, Company Manager of the Broadway company of WICKED, and Charlie Deull, Executive Vice President at Clark Transfer. Rebekah Sale is the BGA’s full-time Coordinator.
The post, "Broadway Up-cycled" by Joseph Napolitano originally appeared on The Center For Sustainable Practice In Arts website.
The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts is a Think Tank for Sustainability in the Arts and Culture. The CSPA views sustainability as the intersection of environmental balance, social equity, economic stability and a strengthened cultural infrastructure. Seeing itself as evolved out of the principles of the 1987 Brundtland Report and 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, the CSPA aligns itself with the policies of Agenda 21 for Culture as a resource to artists and art organizations. The CSPA’s activities include research and initiatives positioning arts and culture as a driver of a sustainable society. For more information visit: sustainablepractice.org