Becca Finney ’11 garners national attention for sustainable theater
If you went to a Centre theatre production while Becca Finney ’11 was a student, chances are you either saw her onstage or were otherwise entertained by the fruits of her labor. Since graduating, Finney has remained dedicated to the dramatic arts. And her efforts to create environmentally-sustainable theatre have won her national recognition.
American Apparel, a global manufacturer and distributor of clothing that operates the largest garment factory in the United States, recently featured Finney’s senior drama project — a stage adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax” — on their blog. The clothing company teamed up with Finney in her efforts to make all of the costumes and scenery for “The Lorax” out of recycled materials, donating scraps of fabric for the show.
“American Apparel was a wonderful company to work with. They were polite, enthusiastic and so extremely generous — they didn’t even charge shipping!” Finney says.
The clothing company was one of many contributors to the project, which Finney began after giving herself an ultimatum about creating sustainable theater.
“The project developed out of my own need to find a way to make theater a politically and environmentally responsible practice,” she says. “I decided, if I can’t find a way to make this art form relevant and purposeful, I won’t pursue it anymore. Because theater is what I love to do, I was determined to find a way to make it so.”
Finney chose to adapt “The Lorax” for the stage because it delivers a pertinent message about the importance of the environment.
“Our current social and political climate demands a new level of environmental awareness. The story of ‘The Lorax’ demanded that level of awareness forty years ago, when it was written. For this reason, it was a fantastic tool for bringing to light certain environmental issues that need to be addressed in our generation,” Finney says.
In order to be as environmentally responsible as possible, Finney collected recycled materials from American Apparel and other local businesses. The performance also took place outside, to avoid using electricity or air conditioning. Avoiding consumption was of the utmost importance to Finney as she put her project together.
“‘The Lorax’ presents a basic environmental equation: excessive industrial growth leads to degradation of the environment. My goal was not only to present this equation, but to also add another factor to the equation: excessive consumption leads to industrial growth, which leads to environmental degradation,” she says. “My hope was to make an already resonant story ring even truer by infusing it with some of the issues of the twenty-first century. The excessive consumerism of our country definitely fits this bill.”
Now working at Kentucky Shakespeare in Louisville, Finney’s latest project is to develop and direct a living history show that will tour public schools in Kentucky and Indiana this spring. Finney remains just as dedicated to making environmentally responsible theater as she was while adapting “The Lorax” at Centre.
“I absolutely plan to continue doing sustainable theater work. In our current world, anyone not making an effort to live and work sustainably is living and working irresponsibly,” she says. “We have an obligation to our fellow humans and future generations to find a more sustainable way of living, and we should do that whether we are running a bakery or a law firm or a theater.”
American Apparel’s profile of Finney’s work has given her a major platform from which to advocate for environmental responsibility — and she wants the blog’s readers to learn something from her project.
“I hope that, when people see ‘The Lorax’ featured on the website, they will realize how little ‘stuff’ you actually need to accomplish something,” she says.
As Finney continues to make waves in the theater world, she anticipates that sustainability efforts will become even more widespread.
“We are a culture conditioned to consume,” she says. “It’s not our fault. I just hope that people will begin to find a way to satisfy themselves — artistically, recreationally, however — with a just little bit less.”