Going Green On Broadway with Molly Braverman

November 12, 2020

Molly Braverman is the Director of the Broadway Green Alliance.  She previously served as the Managing Director of Theatre Horizon, a non-profit professional theatre company in Norristown, PA.  She has worked as a Stage Manager on Broadway, Touring Broadway, and regionally, having spent three years on the road with the National Tour of Wicked and continuing to serve as a substitute Stage Manager on Wicked and Hamilton.  She founded the Philadelphia Green Theatre Alliance, a regional chapter of the Broadway Green Alliance, and is a trained Climate Reality Leader.

John Shegerian: This edition of the IMPACT! Podcast is brought to you by the Marketing Masters. The Marketing Masters is a Boutique Marketing agency offering website development and digital marketing services to small and medium businesses across America. For more information on how they can help you grow your business online, please visit themarketingmasters.com.

John: Welcome to another edition of the IMPACT! Podcast. I am John Shegerian and I am so honored and excited to have with us today, Molly Braverman. Molly is the director of the Broadway Green Alliance. Welcome to the IMPACT! podcast, Molly.

Molly Braverman: Thank you so much for having me here. I am honored to be here.

John: Well Molly, I know today we are taping this during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are going to get into that in a little while. You are in the City of brotherly love and beautiful Philadelphia and I am in Fresno, California. So, it is so wonderful to have this great technology where we could connect and share your journey and story, and the story of the Broadway Green Alliance today. Before we get into all the important work you are doing there, can you share a little bit of your back story on Molly Braverman and how you even came to this very interesting and important position?

Molly: Absolutely. My pleasure. I love to share about how I got into the environmental movement because I think it is so important that we all talk about our unique ways into this work. Not all of us certainly woke up from birth and said, “Great! I am going to be a climate activist.” But the important thing is that we all find our way there. For me, I woke up from birth knowing that I was going to work in the theater. My parents joke that they certainly knew from the beginning. I was dragging them down into our basement putting on shows from day one. You actually had to buy tickets to get into my basement shows. My family, they will–

John: That is so cute.

[Crosstalk]

Molly: They will both love and complain about it.

John: That is the sweetest thing.

[Crosstalk]

Molly: I was destined for the theater.

John: Wow.

Molly: I am fortunate enough to have made a career in it. Always knew that the theater and activism were inextricably linked. As a theater artist, I am not the first to discover that. That has been done for generations from the beginning. Theater artists have always been on the forefront of change. I was working with that and using my art to make change. But it really was not until I joined the national tour of Wicked as a stage manager. That I discovered that I really had my eyes open to the environmental crisis in front of us and because through the national tour I started traveling the country. Right? I am an East Coast girl. We establish from Philly girl. I grew up and live my life on the east coast. Once I started traveling I started to experience more communities and more climates that were being impacted in different ways and in different proportions by the climate crisis.  By experiencing these different places and by speaking with new communities, and new people. I started to see these shifts and these consequences of our actions in new ways. What struck me was as our show came through town, we did not change. We put on the same show. We have the same carbon footprint. We had the same actions in every place and we did not adapt to our environment. We did not change. We did not expand or contrast based on where we were going. It occurred to me that we are creative people. We are creative problem solvers and we could be doing this differently. We could be adapting differently. That is when I actually found the Broadway Green Alliance. Joined as a Green Captain which I can speak to our Green Captain programs and started getting involved in the environmental movement within the theater and actually how the theater was adapting already. My eyes were open to ways that we could make change within these communities on tools within the broadway community. Within regional theaters and college theaters. The theater was doing this work and I became active and involved and now here I am today.

John: When did you actually come on to the Broadway Green Alliance and when did you become its director?

Molly: Yes. So again, I started volunteering all the way back.

John: Right.

Molly: The 2000.

John: Yes.

Molly: Just about a year ago I assumed the position as the director.

John: Wonderful. It is so funny brought up Wicked because years ago, I want to say, six years ago one of your wonderful predecessors at the Broadway Green Alliance was giving me a backstage tour of Wicked. Wicked is so wonderful because there is so much green involved with this, the stage setting and all the props. To be over[?] with very green alliance leadership going through the backstage and seeing all the green things you do at Wicked was just such a delightful day. It is one of my funniest days ever I have ever had. Not actually sitting in the audience and in broadway, but in the backstage and realizing how much is being done and how much goes into making the great art that the theater artists put on everyday for the audiences on broadway. So, it is just great. It is so great to have you as a director and for our listeners out there that want to find Molly or the Broadway Green Alliance, please go to www.broadwaygreen.com, broadwaygreen.com. I am on the website now. There is so many great things on the website. We are going to get into that in a little while. But before we do, talk about a little bit of the genesis of the Broadway Green Alliance. As you said theater artists are always on the forefront of activism. When did leadership from broadway decide to come together and actually caught a fight[?] with an alliance and an organization such as the Broadway Green Alliance?

Molly: It is a great question and goes back to our favorite show, Wicked.

John: Oh. Wow.

Molly: I am biased. But to take it back a little bit, broadway and theaters around the country have been doing climate action long before my eyes were open to it. Certainly before even the formation of the BGA, the Broadway Green Alliance. But-

John: Right.

Molly: -in 2008, a town hall was called at the Gershwin[?] where Wicked is played on broadway.

John: Right.

Molly: So, Wicked is this linchpin[?] here-

John: Right.

Molly: -at the surface. At the Gershwin, the town hall was called[?] in 2008 to bring all these conversations together, where people were taking these, were making sustainable choices, and starting to make changes or have been making changes for a long time but in their own lanes. So, this town hall was called to bring these conversations together back in 2008. It was a fantastic town hall and at the end of it, it was concluded, “You know what? Actually we did not stop the climate crisis in this one town hall. We have to keep working.” That was when the BGA got it dark as an ad hoc committee of the Broadway League. The Broadway League being the organization that is the professional organization for broadway producers and theater owners and also the organization that produces The Tony[?]. From that we continue to grow and evolve and change and expand there.

John: So, now that we are here in 2020 and yes, it is during COVID. Like I said, “We are going to get into that in a little bit.” What does on a regular basis when we are not dealing with a pandemic? What does the Broadway Green Alliance do on a regular basis to make the world a greener and better place?

Molly: Great. So, we the Broadway Green Alliance serves broadway theaters.

John: Yes.

Molly: Serve all theaters around the country. As I mentioned, tours, regional theaters, community theaters, college theaters, and theater fans, theater patrons. They are just as vital to the theater ecosystem-

John: Wow.

Molly: -as those on stage. So, what we do is we inspire, encourage, motivate that whole group of people to adopt environmentally friendly or practices. We do that through a wide menu of options. One that I like to highlight is our Green Captain program. That is a program in which anyone at the theater and on broadway, we had a 100% participation. So, every show had a Green Captain. That is someone who volunteers, raises their hand and says, “I want to be the liaison between our show and the Broadway Green Alliance.” Help implement these practices at our show.

John: That is wonderful.

Molly: Exactly. No two Green Captains are alike, right? Because that person brings their own unique skills to the role and also customizes that rule to the show, right? The green need that at Wicked might be different than what was going on at 6:00. Then it is different than a play. Than[?] To Kill a Mockingbird. That is also different than the Green Captain’s role at a college university.

John: Ahh.

Molly: A college or university or off-broadway, right? The public’s Green Captain is going to be doing something a little bit different. The beauty of the program is that the role can morph and change all with the support and the resources of the BGA to help them succeed at their work. At making their theater or their show more environmentally friendly.

John: And just so I am clear, does every show is, I know what the genesis is with Wicked, but does now every show on broadway participate?

Molly: Every show on broadway participates. Correct.

John: Wow. It is so in this whole world I think we are learning more, more every day. It is hard to get alignment. I mean, where we have come in America with all this nonsensical tribalism to get everybody aligned on broadway to move the ball forward is really something special and it speaks volumes about. As you said earlier, that theater artists really are the activists because if they could get together and get over their differences because there is no way that husbands and wives have differences. Brothers and sisters have differences. Artists are as different as anything else. But to get over whatever differences they have to get a line to make progress, that to me says it all. That to me says it all. That is really truly remarkable.

Molly: Thank you. I think what is fundamental is with the climate movement and the climate crisis is, it is an issue that brings together different groups and different priorities because in the end we cannot move forward on other priorities if we do not have a planet.

John: Right.

Molly: So it is in the end and ultimate equalizer because when I say equalizer, not in that-

John: Right.

Molly: -environmental issues do no. They affect people-

John: Right.

Molly: -very differently.

John: Right. Right.

Molly: But we they bring together different movements and different causes because we are all have to fight for environmental justice and climate justice in order to have a planet on which to live. I think that because of that it can bring together these movements and people in a way that is is critical to move us forward.

John: And I agree with you. I think we are hitting us some form of tipping point now with the wildfires burning here in California. Actually, very close to where I am sitting right now. The hurricanes that we have already experienced this year. The other type of environmental tragedies that have just happened in the last four or five years. I think we have hit a tipping point. If I frame it up this way, Molly. Jane Fonda on one end and she is still an activist and doing amazing things. She has just written a book that sitting here right on my desk. Greta Thunberg and then other young brilliant leaders like you in between. We are now at a point where I think we have a consensus or growing consensus to what you just said. Everything else is moot[?] if we do not get our planet healthy because there is nothing left to talk about if there is nothing left to move forward with or disagree on even. If we cannot just come to agreements on the planet. So if that is the case, what I am hearing and what I am seeing is a lot of people of feeling overwhelmed. Yes, COVID makes it worse. But, even just on the environmental issues they feel that things have become spun a little bit beyond hopeless. How do we get people, our listeners engaged so they can make a difference themselves wherever they are with whatever tools that are available to them? How can people know where to start to take action themselves so collectively we could all become part of the solution?

Molly: That is a fantastic question because it is a hard one. This is hard but, I love a Glennon Doyle quote which is, “We can do hard things.” Theater people can do hard things. We get those shows up, at the eleventh hour, at the end of tech when it all feels impossible, we can do it. But when it feels overwhelming, the BGA talks about one of our core principles, which I love. Which I am going to talk about two of them. One is, it is impossible to be 100% green. So, sometimes taking a step back from the ledge of perfectionism, right? Which is if I am not doing it all. If I am not that vision of an ideal environmentalist. Whatever it is, you have conjured[?] in your head. If I have not done everything perfectly then it is all moot, right? Then–

John: That is so well said, Molly. So well said. You are saying do not worry about perfect. Just do. Just do.

Molly: Right.

John: Keep going.

Molly: We like to say you can only be greener. You cannot be a 100% green.

John: Right.

Molly: Although we like to make an exception for Elphaba or Shrek.

John: Right.

[Laughter]

John: That is so true.

Molly: Exactly. All we can ask of ourselves is to be a little bit greener tomorrow than we were today.

John: Got it.

Molly: [Inaudible] there.

John: Got it. Now, let us go into a little bit of the news that we are all dealing with still. COVID. I grew up in New York City. I, with millions of others now realize all of the wonderful idiosyncrasies and offerings at New York has. A very few great cities on this planet have the plethora of art and entertainment and museums and culture and history led by broadway. I never could have imagined. I am 57. In my 57 years that the lights would go dark for more than a day or two. We have lived through 9/11. We have lived through other tragedies and difficult times. How and what has COVID-19 done to broadway? Share a little bit of your vision on, what does the recovery look like?

Molly: Yes. No, I understand and it has certainly been heartbreaking for those of us who work in this field but not without hope.

John: Right.

Molly: We will return. Many of us, including the BGA are using what we call, our intermission. [Inaudible] maybe.

John: It is good. I like that.

Molly: Right. To think about how we come back and how we come back better. It is in a variety of ways including looking at social justice and racial justice and environmental justice. We can use this opportunity to not take a step back. But in fact to come back greener, right? And how can we think and do better. The the climate crisis has not stopped during COVID. So therefore, and in it of itself is a health emergency. So we have to look holistically at how we return in order to not further this health emergency in our return. I think there are a lot of great thinkers and a lot of great people doing this work right now.

John: For our listeners out there that have just joined us, we have got Molly Braverman. She is the director of the Broadway Green Alliance today with us. If you want to find Molly and her colleagues and the great work they are doing you could go to www.broadwaygreen.com.  I love what you just said Molly because here at my company as the leader, I am constantly messaging and they look, my colleagues and employees look for the messaging. The words of hope you just gave is that, I really dislike when newscasters or other people that a rejust reporting and really well-meaning say, “Well at some point, we are going to get to a new normal.” I do not believe that. I like what you just said. I think when science wins and science will win here and we will get vaccinated and have herd immunity and good things are going to be. We are going to get. I think it should be our goal to what you just said. Let us get to a new better. Let us not get to a new normal. Let us get to a new better together. Like everybody else, we have all found ways to use our time. Our alone time. Our downtime during this quarantine period.  One of the things I did is I went back and I looked at a group of interviews that I had viewed years ago with Nelson Mandela. One of my favorite parts of the interview was when the questioner asked Nelson Mandela. How did you survive? How did you survive jail? Because of that Nelson Mandela looked at him somewhat quizzically, but with assurance and said, “That was not my goal.” He goes, “I spent my time planning for when I got out.” He took that very negative what could only be. We were all complaining with all of our creature comforts in our homes or condos or apartments. Imagine being in jail and looking beyond. I think the same goes for us to look beyond and look for the better. Look for the hope. I think it is just- and I am so hopeful because I get to meet great people like you and I get to share your journey and your great organization with our listeners. That to me is a message of hope that there is lots of people working from so many angles because like you said Molly, “We cannot do this alone.” So, at BGA, what now as a leader yourself, what are you doing differently and messaging differently? When you come out, when we all come out of this period. How is BGA going to have evolved even to your new vision to do more, do better, and continue its core mission?

Molly: That is a great question. I think the BGA is not, and I am not alone and having learned how to adapt quickly in the meantime, right? I think we are learning the role of flexibility in 2020. Through that it teaches us that some of the things we thought were so important and so necessary and in the theater, we love tradition. Maybe are not so important. Maybe we can live without. Maybe as we are talking, and I love your messaging of rebuilding and keeping the hope alive for a different vision for tomorrow. I think we are learning how quickly we can build that. Things that we thought maybe we are going to take years or decades. We as humans are so clever and so creative and so able to adapt that we can do it faster. Frankly, our planet requires that of us. Certainly, I work with either people. I am a theater person and I have a passion for theater people. We, above all our creative, collaborative, and empathetic and when we use those tools and combine that with the adaptability we have learned in this pandemic now we can achieve so much. That is what I hope to take out of this time is the lessons of, we can bend more than we thought. Combine that with our fantastic tools, our [inaudible], our theaters, our love of applause of applauding people when we do great things. When we combine that, I think we are set to achieve a lot.

John: I am on your website. I love all the positivity and action steps that you offer. Really doors of entrance that you offer on your website. For our listeners out there. Again, it is broadwaygreen.com. Broadway Green Alliance’s website is broadwaygreen.com.  Can you talk a little bit about, you talked about the Green Captain’s earlier. Can you talk a little bit about your #GreenQuarantine weekly learning session.

[Crosstalk]

John: Yes. Go ahead.

Molly: Yes. So, that is talking about, flexibility back in March.

John: Yes.

Molly: We quickly pivoted to online like many. We came up with our Green Quarantine learning sessions which are free and available to anyone listening both our live sessions on Thursdays and any of our past, currently, I believe 21 sessions which are available as you mentioned at broadwaygreen.com. They are, their skill up there. Their learning sessions about things that we can do as a theater artist. So industry-specific, but also how to compost at home or make a green garden at home. So, we try to intersperse to meet people where they are. We know it is hard right now. It is hard for me. It is hard. I am sure for you. It is hard for everyone.

John: Right.

Molly: So, therefore we try to make these green quarantines. To meet people wherever you are. I know for me that varies by the hour. So, we understand we all have to look inside and see what we can give and when we can give it. These green quarantines are there to help you. Help you find those skills and use them.

John: That is wonderful. Molly, before we say goodbye for today, we just had a presidential debate last night. I think what was clear to everybody, no matter what side anyone is thinking of supporting and that is what makes this democracy great. That we could all have our own opinions. But what was clear to everybody is that we have come to a point of incivility. How do we
return to a country that was built on civil rights and on a country that aims for more civil rights? How do we get back to a civil discussion and discourse? So, I know one of the big initiatives at the Broadway Green Alliance is pushing, which I think is just the best, is getting everyone to participate. To vote. I know that it did not happen in ’16. I know we left a lot of people on the sidelines who thought their outcome was going to be the way they wanted. People did not go out and vote. Can you talk a little bit about the need for vote no matter, the need for voting now in this country more than ever when no matter whose side you are on or what opinions you have? But we have all got to participate. It is sort of our real duty and responsibility when we do not have a lot. We have a lot of freedoms, but not much is asked from up for us from us except taxes and voting really.

Molly: Absolutely. I think you speak to a great point, which is first of all, voting is our civic duty. We can start there but beyond that I think it is each of us remembering how much power we have in our vote and in our actions and not throwing that away. We certainly learned in 2016 that people who thought that their vote did not have power were wrong. I encourage people to remember how much power they have with their vote. How much power they have with their actions. Our co-chair of the BGA Charlie Joel tells a story about how he was sitting[?]. I am going to paraphrase how he was sitting at a lunch with a producer one time who said, “What power do I have to implement change? When I am just the producer. I am not out there doing anything.” Right? Of course you have power and I sit in conversations with with somebody who is on the crew who says, “What power do I have? I am not the producer making the change.” I feel like we spend a lot of time pointing fingers at someone else saying but they are the ones with the power. All we are doing is, and if we are constantly doing that then no one is left holding the decisions. No one is left with the power at hand. So, we are all so busy throwing away our power to someone else when in fact we are the ones who have it, who can use it. That is true in the rehearsal room with the green decisions. That is true when it comes to voting. So I cannot, all I could talk about this to the whole podcast, but I will leave it with your power. Your vote has power. They certainly would not be trying to suppress votes if voting has power. With that if you are interested and feel like you want to do more, we have on our website a voter resources page that is full of ways to get involved in helping mobilize more voters. If that interests you as an action point and that is certainly a climate action you can take. We also, this climate is an issue that you want to vote on. That issue is very much on the ballot. We have resources there in which you can research your candidates positions on climate and learn how to then hold candidates elected, elected officials accountable for climate once they get into office. So I encourage you to go to that page. If this is an issue that you are passionate about then learn how to vote climate.

John: Molly, thank you so much. Again, thank you for your time today. This, your message and your organization are so important to helping us all evolve into better, greener citizens. For our listeners again to find Molly or her colleagues at the Broadway Green Alliance, please go to www.broadwaygreen.com. Molly Braverman, you are the reason I do this show the impact. You are making a great impact. You are making the world a better and greener place. Thank you for all you do and thank you for being with us today on the IMPACT! podcast.

Molly: Thank you so much, John. It was a pleasure to be here.