Spotlighting sustainability at La Jolla Playhouse


When Jen McClenahan, Operations Associate at La Jolla Playhouse, first heard about UC San Diego Extension’s Sustainable Business Practices Certificate, she knew she had found a much-needed resource for the Playhouse’s sustainability initiatives.

Founded in 1947, La Jolla Playhouse has rightfully earned international recognition and top accolades for its groundbreaking production of plays and musicals. It counts 70 world premieres, 35 Tony Awards for productions that have transferred to Broadway, and a 1993 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre among an impressive list of achievements.

In the summer of 2010, the Playhouse formed a Green Team which included staff members from various departments who were interested in creating a sustainable workplace and protecting the environment.  Jen McClenahan leads their efforts to find environmental innovative and responsible practices for the Playhouse.

McClenahan reached out to UC San Diego’s Sustainable Business Practices program and worked to develop a partnership that complemented the Playhouse’s Green Team, whose mission consisted of reducing waste, conserving energy and water, promoting sustainable purchasing practices, and educating staff and informing visitors at the Playhouse.

eva-bedegi.jpg  Eva Bedegi: UC San Diego Extension student

“It’s a perfect fit. We signed up to be paired with sustainability students needing to complete their practicum or consultancy. We’d gain a consultant, at no charge, to provide additional suggestions for a more sustainable theatre district. And the student would gain a real word opportunity for putting their expertise to good use,” McClenahan stated.

Student Eva Bedegi — like 84% of UC San Diego, Extension certificate students — already held a bachelor’s degree and was on track to complete a Sustainable Business Practices Certificate. Eva is also a LEED AP (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional). Her management plan for the Playhouse included a Life Cycle Cost Analysis of dressing room lighting. The proposal included switching out the 211 incandescent A19 60 Watt bulbs located in the Potiker Theatre dressing rooms with LEDs.  “Our goal was to get the same amount of lighting for a lot less wattage — and cost,” explains McClenahan.

Bedegi remembered visiting the La Jolla Playhouse for the first time and seeing an opportunity to make a positive impact. “When I walked into those dressing rooms, the first thing I noticed was the large number of light bulbs being used on a daily basis for the functioning of the theatre. I was able to make a difference as a fresh eye looking at the overall situation and then compiling a summary of my knowledge with helpful hints and solutions for increasing efficiency and reducing waste in the sustainability report. The proposal made sense because the cost over time of replacing the light bulbs was offset by savings in energy.”


In the end, both the Playhouse and Bedegi declared the project mutually beneficial even though the Potiker Theatre dressing room lighting plan was not implemented due to budgetary constraints. The Playhouse will hold onto Bedegi’s retrofit report for future theatre projects.

“Eva was wonderful! She attended one of our Green Team meetings and worked with me and other staff members while collecting valuable information for her report. She was extremely communicative throughout the process. The data and research she provided will be extremely helpful as we move forward with funding requests and grant research to support a more sustainable workplace,” said McClenahan.


Green Team Left to Right: Kathryn Sturch, Jan McClenahan, Alex Goodman, Chris Hines, Marike Fitzgerald, Ingrid Helton.

For her part, Bedegi found the Playhouse experience to be professionally useful and satisfying. She stated,  “I attended UC San Diego as an undergrad and found an appreciation for the theater through lighting and design classes, although my major was in Environmental Systems. This practicum was the perfect combination of those two interests in a project that helped me apply my sustainability knowledge in a real-world setting and complete my certificate in Sustainable Business Practices. I had a lot of fun in the process, I enjoyed collaborating with Jen and the Green Team, and I’m interested in how things progress with the La Jolla Playhouse.”

McClenahan said that she looks forward to working with more student sustainability consultants. “Arts and entertainment venues pose certain challenges many corporations do not have. This not only challenges the student but also allows for creative solutions for sustainable practices.”

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