UMN Morris faculty, alumni are setting the scene for green theatre in Minnesota

UMN Morris Office of Communication & Marketing

University of Minnesota  Morris Assistant Professor Lucas Granholm ‘12, has been thinking green since participating in the campus’s first sustainable theatre production in his second year on campus. Since then, Granholm has worked to bring sustainability into his classes and theatrical productions. 

Now, Granholm is extending his leadership across Minnesota. Granholm’s focus is primarily in lighting design, but since joining the faculty at UMN Morris, he has shifted into scenic design, too.

UMN Morris has supported a vibrant, green theatre program, for over a decade. Theatre faculty members, Professor Ray Schultz and Associate Professor Siobhan Bremer, have directed several green productions on campus. And Schultz, with Professor of Studio Art Jess Larson, have published more about their efforts to incorporate sustainability into their creative work and scholarship.

A picture of Lucas Granholm in the theatre design studio.
Lucas Granholm

Granholm attended UMN Morris as a student and was part of the theatre discipline’s first sustainable production, As You Like It, in 2010, directed by Schultz and designed by Larson. In 2011, Bremer directed Sophie and the Adventures of Ice Island and incorporated green design elements. In 2021, Alice @ Wonderland, directed by Schultz, hit the stage with set and lighting design by Granholm.

Granholm has been recognized by the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) and the Association of Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE), receiving the KCACTF/ATHE Innovative Teaching Award (only eight national awards given) for his work incorporating sustainable design practices into the classroom. 

In 2015, Craig Moxon and Carrie Hurst  worked with the Morris Green Reinvestment Fund, which is supported by alumni donations, to pilot LED lighting technology in the Raymond J. Lammers Proscenium, Black Box spaces, and Student Center. Granholm has led the lighting overhaul for more than five years—with nearly 100% LED lighting in the theatrical spaces. This is unheard of with programs in the Morris region.

Building off these successes and experiences, in 2022, Granholm helped launch the Minneapolis Green Theatre Alliance with colleague, Sadie Ward. The Alliance aspires to be a “resource for other theatre makers, designers, and doers to share and celebrate ideas to "green" our industry. We are a chapter of the Broadway Green Alliance. While we are based in Minneapolis, we also serve the greater Minnesota arts community.” 

“Sustainability is a thread that runs throughout campus life at Morris. I am proud of the work that we have done to build a strong and environmentally-conscious theatre program. My goal is to help grow the green theatre community in Minnesota and beyond.” - Granholm

The sustainability mindset at Morris is inspiring alumni, too. In 2022, Sara Herman ‘07 co-launched the Next Stage Rental and Market. The business has a mission “to reduce the amount of scenery, props, and theatrical materials that end up in the landfill or incinerator by providing a marketplace for resale and rental in Minneapolis.” 

Together, the UMN Morris theatre faculty are setting the scene for green theatre in Minnesota and across the United States. 

Setting the scene for green theatre in Minnesota

Sustainable costuming example from the UMN Morris Theatre production of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"
The set for the UMN Morris theatre production of "Charolette's Web"
A sustainable set designed for the UMN Morris Theatre production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
An example of Sustainable set dressing, for the UMN Morris Theatre production of "Spring Awakening"
A LED stage light