Thursday, April 16, 2015

Climate change, Gabi Goes Green! take center stage at GSP

L to R: Lee Ballin, Head of Sustainable Business Programs, Bloomberg Global Sustainability Group; Jim Jack, Director of Education and Outreach, George Street Playhouse; Barry Wyner, Writer, Gabi Goes Green!; Sarah Cassell, GSP Education Touring Theatre Company; Kelly Kirkley, GSP Education Touring Theatre Company; Brittany Sambogna, GSP Education Touring Theatre Company; Adam McDowell, GSP Education Touring Theatre Company; Monica Hilliard, Bloomberg; Frederick Egenolf, Director of Community Affairs, Bristol-Myers Squibb; Andrew Miller, Bloomberg; Nanette Smith, Manager of Global Philanthropy and Engagement, Bloomberg; and Helen Ritchie, Bloomberg. (Photo by Brian Kelley/GSP)

Click for additional photos from this event

By Brian Kelley

GSP Marketing & PR Associate

New Jersey is a “hotspot” when it comes to climate change, Dr. Anthony Broccoli, professor and chair of the department of environmental sciences at Rutgers University, told a crowd of educators and colleagues during his keynote at a Spotlight on Environmental Education conference held at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, N.J., on Wednesday, April 1.

The event also featured the world premiere of the GSP Educational Touring Theatre's latest musical, Gabi Goes Green! -- a show that explores how individual choices impact the environment and global climate, and what we can do to ensure a more sustainable future.  Approximately 90 area fourth- and fifth-graders joined the crowd for the performance and had an opportunity to participate in a post-play discussion with the cast.

Broccoli shared with the crowd images produced by computer models showing projected future climate change that indicated a “dramatically warmer climate” by the year 2100.

“Climate especially important to us in New Jersey,” said Broccoli.  “Sea level along the New Jersey coast has increased 16 inches over the last 100 years, and it’s rising more rapidly here than the global average because the land is sinking.”

Broccoli added that research conducted by Rutgers and Tufts University shows sea level increasing 7 to 16 inches by 2030.  By the end of the 21st century, models show a 30-71 inch rise in sea level, with a best estimate of 42 inches.

In addition to flooding anticipated in a warmer world due to rising seas and more-intense storms, many locations--especially those in the sub tropics and middle latitudes--will experience prolonged dry spells, according to Broccoli.

While the news isn’t exactly promising, there is hope...and that’s where Gabi Goes Green! comes in.

The titular heroine of Gabi Goes Green! knows first-hand the effects of climate change. Gabi is a 14-year old who must get used to a new home and school after her former home--in her family for three generations--is destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.  A wish to return home transforms Gabi into the Green Hero. Armed with clean energy and sustainable choices, the Green Hero takes on Captain Carbon in a battle for the planet’s survival.

With book and lyrics by Barry Wyner and music by Daniel Israel, the same creative duo behind the touring company’s Austin the Unstoppable, the upbeat musical comedy is sure to entertain student audiences, while also stressing the seriousness of climate change and the positive choices each of us can make to ensure a sustainable future.  The play was commissioned by George Street Playhouse through the Victoria J. Mastrobuono New Work Development Program and a grant from Bloomberg. Funding was also provided by Bristol-Myers Squibb, Betty Wold Johnson and the Merrill G. & Emita E. Hastings Foundation. Additional support was provided by The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

“We want Gabi Goes Green! to inspire students to make positive environmental choices in regard to energy efficiency and sustainability,” said Jim Jack, director of the production and GSP’s Director of Education and Outreach. “And Barry and Daniel have once again created something for us that is entertaining as well as engaging.

“We also wanted to stress the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education and generate interest in these areas of study among student audiences,” added Jack.

In order to produce content that is scientifically accurate, GSP worked with a number of environmental organizations and educational institutions, including Rutgers Climate Institute, Sustainable Jersey for Schools, Clean Ocean Action, NJ Recovery Fund and New Jersey Future, to provide valuable research for the project and to align statewide environmental education objectives with the story content, post-play discussion protocols and study guide materials.

Gabi Goes Green! is aimed at elementary and middle-school students in grades 3 through 8, reaching approximately 10,000 students annually.  Anticipating a lifetime run of five to seven years, the production is expected to be staged in front of a total 60,000-70,000 young people.

The schoolchildren watching the Spotlight performance of Gabi Goes Green! responded with overwhelming applause and asked a number of great questions during the post-show discussion.

“Congratulations on what was a banner day for George Street Playhouse in every way,” said Jim Heston, President of GSP’s Board of Trustees.  “Gabi Goes Green! is an impactful and entertaining production on a very important global issue.

“Having Anthony Broccoli set the stage with a wonderful presentation on climate change and its implications and impacts was terrific,” added Heston.  “But the true ‘treasure moment’ of the day was the children’s responses and their strong interest in asking questions. They are the audience for Gabi and they not only enjoyed it, but they were engaged as well.  It made them think.”

Robert Carr, the New Jersey Theatre Alliance’s director of programs and services/ADA coordinator, echoed Heston’s sentiments.  “The day was quite a triumph for you all,” Carr said.  “It also proved the point that theater is a great conduit for learning and understanding.  The show is a delight as well -- entertaining, thoughtful and poignant. Great work!”

Gail Winar, professor of theatre and teaching artist, also offered praise for the show.  “Bravo to the director, creative team, designers and cast of Gabi Goes Green!  It was a delightful, entertaining and sneakily educational green valentine of musical theater.”

The Spotlight event also included workshops conducted by representatives of New Jersey Future, Rutgers Climate Institute and Sustainable Jersey for Schools.

New Jersey Future is working with a number of municipalities along the state’s coastline to help them better understand and communicate local risks and vulnerabilities -- with educators, parents and students being essential to their efforts.

The Rutgers Climate Institute presentation was geared toward educating students on the differences between climate and weather, while Sustainable Jersey for Schools discussed its free and voluntary certification program for the state’s PreK-12 public and charter schools as well as the training, grants and resources available to participating schools.

Attendees were treated to an amazing, vegetarian lunch catered by Elijah’s Promise, the New Brunswick-based community soup kitchen/culinary school/catering service, which provided biodegradable napkins and plates.

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