Voorhees Middle School drama club’s performances are going green.
According to director Leta Strain, the VMS drama club is trying to find ways to not only save money on productions, but also increase production quality and limit the amount of wasted resources.
Set designs are using less lumber, costumes and other props are rarely purchased new and often reused, and paper playbills will soon be a thing of the past.
In the upcoming production of “Footloose,” the sets are made from a reusable product called Unistrut, a product widely used in schools and other buildings for lighting and electrical work.
Recommended by set design and construction architect Mike Morgan, Unistrut is widely used and “incredibly strong,” he said.
The 120-pound structures used in the performance can hold approximately a half a ton, he said.
Morgan said they are trying to use as many reusable materials as possible, and Unistrut would work for future productions.
“I was looking at this and thinking of all the different shows we can do and how versatile it is. It really opens us up to more shows,” he said, adding the cost saving compared to the price of lumber is significant.
“We can reuse it in any configuration,” set design and construction architect Dan Knight said.
He said they purchased 8,000 linear feet of Unistrut for approximately $950. The retail price is $10 per 12 linear feet. For lumber, he said it costs approximately $3 for a two-by-four piece of plywood.
Morgan said another downside to using lumber is it does not store well in schools.
“Schools’ climate controls are meant for kids. It’s generally very warm,” he said.
“Kids don’t know how to stack lumber to keep it from warping, and it’s hard to explain that to them. It’s not really something you want to educate them on.”
Morgan said it is easy for the children to learn how to build sets using Unistrut. He said once the material is cut, the kids only need one tool to break it down and put it together.
“It’s safe and they can learn about physics, load and load bearing items. That’s the kind of stuff they are really not getting from building a wooden project,” he said, adding the students might take this knowledge with them when they go to college, opening up scholarship opportunities and set building experience.
“Watching what the college kids do in their theater groups, they do it on their own. They don’t have any professional supervision. So what they learn here is pretty crucial to them,” Morgan said.
Using Unistrut instead of purchasing lumber for every production, Knight and Morgan said would also save money on renting a dumpster, reduce labor time, and is better for the environment.
As for the costumes, costume director Amanda Sura said she tries to reuse as many materials as she can. Buying new clothing items is a rarity.
“Everything I use is from a thrift store, Goodwill or somebody’s basement. Very few things are purchased,” she said.
According to Sura, she repurposes approximately 95 percent of the materials.
Sura is trying to establish more relationships with surrounding schools and programs that put on productions. She said she also works for the Voorhees Theater Company and is constantly
lending items from past productions.
“You make friends,” Sura said. “It’s kind of like a bartering system. That’s my goal.”
While Sura is working on cost savings in the costume department, Strain said the drama club’s productions are also moving toward becoming paperless.
“We are using technology to save energy and to save trees. We are considering electronic playbills,” Leta said.
She said approximately 2,000 playbills are printed each year with 100 bi-fold pages each. She said they use 50 sheets of paper per playbill.
The electronic playbill would be projected on a screen at productions with scrolling advertisements using Keynote, an Apple program used to create presentations that are accessible via multiple devices.
Leta said using Keynote would also open the doors to save money on backdrops.
Pictures can be projected onto the screens by using Keynote, she said.
“We are not spending money to make the drops, and we are not wasting resources to make the backdrops and lower the backdrops,” she said.
The drama club will eliminate throwing away lumber, save money on costs for costumes and set designs as well as eliminating the use of paper.
Leta said the drama club is using green initiatives to help save money and the environment.
“‘Footloose’ is a sustainable show,” she said.
Voorhees Middle School Drama Club will be performing “Footloose” at the VMS Theater. Show times for the performance are Friday, March 15, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, March 16, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.; and Sunday, March 17 at 3 p.m. Ticket prices are $10. All seats are reserved. Senior citizens can watch the show for free at the 1 p.m. show on March 16.
Tickets can be purchased at the box office. VMS box office hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays in March from 3-4:30, and Saturdays in March from 5 to 6 p.m. Tickets are also available one hour prior to each performance. For further information, please call 795-2025, ext. 5410. For information on group sales, please call 428-2990, ext. 4184 and leave a message.