Author: Leah Nomkin
Upon first glance, the only commonality between the Urban and Environmental Policy (UEP) and theater departments are the close vicinity of the two department buildings. But for UEP and theater double major Marisha Thakker ‘14, the connection extends beyond the short walk from Keck Theater to the UEP house, to her senior comprehensive thesis (comps) and her post-graduate job.
Every weekday morning, Thakker hops off the New York City subway in the heart of Times Square. In the midst of the bustling theater community, she found a niche for her specialized background at the Broadway Green Alliance (BGA), an organization dedicated to instilling environmental practices in theater companies across the globe.
Thakker currently serves as a social media and graphic design intern for BGA, and is responsible for the company’s online advertising and marketing. She first began working for BGA in July, as the green design intern for Tony award-winning set designer Donayle Werle.
Thakker assists with projects such as BGA’s E-Waste Drive, held in Times Square on Sept. 17. BGA collected 8,000 pounds of recycled electronics from New York City residents and theater companies alike. Thakker advertised for the event through social media and designed the pins that the BGA handed out at the event.
She is also responsible for interviewing the Green Captains—cast and crew members from on-or-off-Broadway companies in charge of making their work environment more sustainable. In addition, she investigates the sustainable aspects of the theaters themselves, including the Phantom of the Opera and Mamma Mia productions.
To do this, Thakker compiles in-depth case studies for BGA, examining the sustainable materials and practices of a show. For example, she inventoried everything used to create the set of a recent off-Broadway show that Werle designed, then researched which products in the show could be replaced by recycled material.
At a photoshoot where Thakker assisted, she not only had the opportunity to explore the Gershwin Theater, home to Broadway’s “Wicked,” but also met the CEO of Electronics Recyclers International John Shegerian.
“I now get to do all these things that I only used to dream about,” Thakker said.
Before working for BGA, she interviewed Werle as a source for her senior comps, which focused on sustainable theater. Through the theater department, she was also able to directly apply her research on sustainability done in her UEP courses, an approach that readily prepared her for her current job.
“A lot of people have theater skills, but they don’t necessarily have the academic research skills that UEP gives you,” she said. “So having both of those has really helped me to take on a lot of different things.”
For her theater comps she wrote, directed and designed a production that adhered to her environmentally-friendly focus.
“It was a very tough project to take on,” theater Professor Emeritus Alan Freeman said. “She encountered lots of problems, but she demonstrated by her artistic experiment that everything she proposed to do was ultimately possible.”
Thanks to her comps research, Thakker is familiar with research on cutting-edge sustainability practices, which gives her an advantage at work. She is able to recommend new practices in addition to what BGA has already established in terms of sustainable theater.
“My boss had actually read part of my thesis and introduced me [to the BGA board] as the person who had done a lot of research on sustainable theater,” she said. “They really accepted me as one of their own. They look to me for new ideas.”
Thakker sees herself working for the company for the next several years, with hopes of extending her involvement in the industry to one of their affiliate programs, like the International Green Alliance.
“For now, I just can’t believe I get paid to do this,” she said.
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