PITTSBURG — Sustainability was not taken lightly while the Pitt State Theatre prepared for the dark comedy “The House of Blue Leaves.”
As part of her graduate project, Olivia Ellison, Pitt State Theatre scenic designer and technical director, focused on sustainability in the arts — particularly theatre.
Ellison, who is a PSU Department of Communication graduate student, came back to school to study technical theatre and sustainability.
“I came into grad school really wanting to focus on sustainability and how we can bring sustainability into the performing arts,” she said. “That's why I wanted to do the scenic design for the ‘The House of Blue Leaves’ and also be the technical director — to be in charge of how everything is built and made.”
Ellison had to create the setting of a cold apartment in Sunnyside, Queens, New York City.
To do this, she sent an email out to faculty across campus to see if they had any props she could borrow.
Since the show takes place in 1965, Ellison had to search for older items — so she went antiquing and found several items including a 1940 or 1950s television and magazines.
For this set, no lumber was purchased. Instead lumber from from previous shows was used.
“At Pitt State Theatre we recycle a lot of materials and try to salvage as much as we can,” she said, adding that being a university theatre, there is a smaller budget to consider.
Ellison was determined to spend less than 50 percent of her budget.
“Lisa Quinteros wanted to do that as well, she used a lot of stock costumes that we had and modified ones that we have to fit the time period,” Ellison said.
Pitt State Theatre is pretty sustainable, Ellison said, praising the director of the show Linden Little for his efforts, along with the rest of the theatre faculty and team.
“We try to do the best as we can while putting on a really cool production,” she said. “I think sustainability is important in the arts because especially with theatre because theatre is a reflection of a world and what we do and what we do not do — it can be a cautionary tale  or something like that — if we want to strive to be sustainable as in helping the planet, be financially efficient and make everyone happy, we should be able to reflect that in our set and everything that we do.”

Want to go?
The plot: The dark comedy, written by playwright John Guare, follows the exploits of down-and-out zookeeper, Artie Shaughnessy, on the day the Pope makes his first visit to North America in 1965. Shaughnessy and his mistress, Bunny, hope that Shaughnessy might become a famous Hollywood song writer and leave Queens — and Shaughnessy’s ailing wife Bananas — behind.

Tickets are free to students, staff, and faculty with PSU ID. Tickets are $12 for the general public, or $7 for those 17 and younger and 65 and older. Group memberships are available for groups of 10 or more.
Performances will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tickets may be purchased or picked up at the PSU Ticket Office in the Weede Physical Education Building, or at the box office in the Bicknell Center 30 minutes before the show.
Each season, Pitt State Theatre selects a community organization with which to partner. This season’s organization is Safehouse Crisis Center, and a soap collection will take place at the door — dish soap, laundry soap, dishwasher soap, and hand soap.