Ethical theatre / dirty theatre

Dirty or Ethical Theatre
Dirty or Ethical Theatre

How much tar sand does it take to make contemporary theatre? If we don’t use too much tar sand can we call it ethical theatre? Or is it just dirty theatre no matter how you slice it?

These are a few questions being considered as Theatre Conspiracy begins creative sessions for Extraction after two years of research and planning. Our cast and team of theatre artists are in residence at The Cultch in Vancouver for the next few weeks to experiment before a work-in-progress presentation at Your Kontinent: Richmond International Film & Media Arts Festival on July 21.

Extraction premieres March 5-9, 2013 as part of The Cultch season.

The Conspiracy tar sand usage equation goes something like this:

About two tons of tar sand has to be extracted from an open pit mine to produce one barrel of oil. Approximately 10 per cent of that barrel can be refined into jet fuel.

We flew our cast member Teresa Tang [see photo], a freelance interpreter, from her home in Beijing to Vancouver rehearsals on an Airbus 330, which burned 78,889 litres of jet fuel on an 8502 km flight.

Teresa was one of 265 people on that flight, so she personally burned 298 litres of jet fuel. Presumably, it will take as much to get her home.

Teresa Tang
Teresa Tang

Sixteen litres of jet fuel can be produced from one barrel of crude oil. So just over 36 barrels of oil will have to be produced to fly Teresa to Vancouver and back. That adds up to 36 tons of tar sand.

According to our statistics, our researchers and cast members for Extraction have flown and driven about 77,144 km back and forth from Vancouver to Beijing and to Fort McMurray, if you add it up individually.

All told, we estimate we have burned 324 tons of tar sand so far or almost one dump from the Caterpillar 797 [see photo], the largest truck on the planet, which can haul 400 tons. The truck is industry standard in tar sands mining operations in Alberta.

Of course, about 6 barrels of oil would have to be spent on mining, hauling and refining that 324 tons of tar sand. Plus, we used 1,296 barrels of water in the process. So, technically, that’s on the Conspiracy tab as well.

Caterpillar 797
Caterpillar 797

Teresa Tang brings a lot of expertise into the rehearsal room. She’s of Taiwanese extraction, educated in California, and did a stint on Wall St. before moving to Beijing in 2004 to become a professional interpreter in many diplomatic and business settings as well as working with such celebs as Tony Blair, James Cameron and Steven Spielberg.

Just the same, is Conspiracy dirty for flying Teresa in for rehearsals? If we could guarantee that the jet fuel expended on her flights came from a Canadian source like the tar sands rather than, say, a less-than-democratic source like Saudi Arabia, could we say that Extraction is somewhat more ethical?

It’s up in the air.