'62 Center Sustainability

Halfway across campus from the ‘66 Envi Center sits the ‘62 Center for Theater and Dance, a building that houses the Theater and Dance departments, supports student performance groups, and hosts visiting artists. As separated as these buildings may be by their location and use, the communities that surround them came together this past spring to examine what sustainability efforts currently look like in the ‘62 Center, and what improvements might be viable in the near future. This resulted in a four-week pop-up collaborative internship between the Zilkha Center and the ‘62 Center focused on identifying areas for growth and developing resources for sustainable performance production here at Williams.

With the help of a few guiding documents, four primary spheres of operation within the ‘62 Center were identified for consideration of sustainability practices. These included the practices of the Costume Shop and Scene Shop, current storage inventory practices, and the future of the building’s practical and theatrical lights being converted to LEDs.  Other areas like digital asset management and advertising were noted for future investigation.

Recommendations in the final report cover sourcing and use of materials in the Scene Shop, as well as best practices for the Costume Shop laundry. A proposal for the installation of a microplastic filtration system for laundry wastewater was also included. These documents contain many recommendations, but the best part is that a portion of their contents simply codify existing practices. Sustainability is already a priority for many people working in the ‘62 Center, and many newly recommended practices are low-cost and do not require much, if any, additional labor.

Now might be an ideal time to note that throughout the duration of this internship, the academic departments housed by the ‘62 Center were in the peak of their spring season. This provided us with many opportunities to examine how we prioritize sustainability in our work, even when other issues compete for attention.

Spring Pachedu, a performance featuring a variety of ensembles supported by the Dance Department, required technical support from the Costume and Scene Shops, as well as from other departments in the building. This and future performances supported by the Dance Department focus on fully utilizing the materials available within the ‘62 Center and encourage repeatable practices for a rehearsal and performance process that balances sustainability, efficiency, and consideration for the well being of performers, technicians, and other support staff.

SHAKUNTALA: a remix the Theater Department’s spring production, involved three of the building’s performance spaces and a vast array of materials. While existing sustainability practices were applied to much of the installation for the show, the production was an original work that developed throughout the rehearsal process and, therefore, required a greater degree of flexibility from many technical departments. Prop and puppetry construction for example used a variety of materials, some from existing inventory, some like cardboard reclaimed from what would have been waste, and some bought new. Props are typically constructed in the Scene Shop, and future goals for Scene Shop sustainability practices take the variety of work done in the Scene Shop into account.

As performances shift in structure over time, technical support must innovate in order to meet new demands. This investigation sought out methods of responding to these new demands of performance while ensuring the possibility of future artistic endeavors through the avenue of sustainability.

While this internship period culminated in a meeting with ‘62 Center and Zilkha Center leadership, the work of improving sustainability efforts in performance production at the college is far from over. Dialogues centering on future opportunities for improvement will hopefully continue through many future artistic endeavors at the ‘62 Center.

Leo Levine ‘26 is a student employee of the Theater and Dance Departments and a Spring 2023 Zilkha Center Intern at Williams College.