Theater goes green: Upright Egg’s “Uranus”

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The myth has it that on an equinox, all nature is in harmony and an egg can stand upright. In their upcoming production of Uranus, local theater company Upright Egg is embracing the idea of nature in harmony both through the play’s content and also in the “green theater” techniques they have been using to create the show.

Uranus will play from June 12-22 at the Tilsner Artists’ Cooperative, 300 Broadway Street, St. Paul. For information, see uprightegg.com.


Uranus opens on June 12 at the Tilsner Artists’ Cooperative. The plot involves two young backpackers who find themselves lost on a planet made entirely of Earth’s waste. The play’s theme is environmental preservation, and Upright Egg is going all-out in embracing that theme in every aspect of the production process.

“The show, both in process and content, is an exercise in green theater,” wrote Brian O’Neil, Upright Egg’s artistic director, in an e-mail. “The content of the piece centers around the idea of what is discarded, the things we hang onto and the things we throw away.”

Producing green theater is easier said than done. “We are using only items for the set construction and props and costumes that are found, donated or recycled,” wrote O’Neil. Even the lighting will be created from found household lights.

None of the actors were given paper copies of their scripts; instead, scripts were e-mailed. Upright Egg is asking their artists to participate in the greening process at home as well. They have installed a “fess up” sheet where people can write down their environmental sins—such as driving a car or failing to recycle.


None of the actors were given paper copies of their scripts.


“Paper is definitely a big challenge,” wrote O’Neil. “It’s customary to have paper copies of pretty much every document related to a show, and then to have enough for every cast and crew member to have their own.” Actors bring laptops to rehearsal, or come with their lines memorized. “Ideally, the laptops won’t be in much use at all. The first week of rehearsal for the most part will be training and ensemble building, with a little bit of work with the scripts.”

Upright Egg, which has been existence since 2006, has a history of working heavily in movement—especially early on in the rehearsal period. For this production of Uranus, Upright Egg has brought in guest writer/director Jeremy Pickard, who, for the past two years, has trained extensively in Viewpointing and Suzuki techniques with Ann Bogart’s SITI Company in New York. During the first week of rehearsal for a show, Pickard spends half the day training the ensemble in movement theater techniques. The other half of the day, the ensemble composes movement without the text. By the second week, when the actors start to work with text, many of the actors have their lines memorized so they don’t need their scripts.

Pickard is an associate member of Canary Adventures Society (CAS), a New York-based company dedicated to tackling issues of the environment through original, company-created work. “My personal interest in green theatre is a double helix,” wrote Pickard in an e-mail. “On one hand I am committed to activating and raising awareness of environmental reform, and on the other I am dedicated to making great theater.”

With Upright Egg, as with CAS, Pickard sees green theater as facilitating creativity. “What I’m envisioning,” he wrote, “is a theater that simultaneously practices extreme conservation and celebrates the no-frills magic that makes it a unique art form. I see a theater that empowers actors and audience to exercise their imagination, a theater that is [similar] to children playing make-believe.”

Sheila Regan is a theater artist based in Minneapolis. When not performing or writing, she serves as educational coordinator for Teatro del Pueblo.