A Second Life for Theater-Disposed Materials in New York

by | Dec 8, 2023 | Heartivist Of The Week

By 2050, the worldwide waste is expected to be 3.40 billion tonnes, according to The World Bank

“We are strongest when united together towards a cause. If we, as a global community, use our voices and take intentional action together, we can enact real, tangible, and lasting change,” Laicey Gibby-Brown, Founder of Final Strike Collaborative.

Stories represent humanity, who we are, and who we aspire to be. From ancient times, the theater has been the place where words materialize into actions, an art form that allows us to feel those stories deeper. Just like the Irish Nobel Prize winner, dramatist, and critic, George Bernard Shaw, once said: “You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.” But even such a noble art can leave a huge carbon footprint that shouldn’t be ignored.

Laicey Gibby-Brown works in theater production on Broadway and – after many years of watching the immense amount of waste left behind after theater productions ended – she decided to create Final Strike Collaborative. This organization aims to rescue discarded theater materials from their landfill fate and turn them into new and amazing creations, giving them a second life.

A Passion For Theater


Laicey´s family valued art strongly and theater became a passion for her at a very young age.

“My mom would read books to us when we were little and that directed my attention to the art of storytelling,” recalls Laicey. “My aunts and uncles were my role models in a big way and I watched them go into school plays. So I wanted to be like them and I grew up following in their footsteps.  When I was in high school I did a play where I was Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. I remember that one night after rehearsal I was exhausted – my mom was driving me home at about 10 pm – and I turned to her and said: ‘I think I want to do this forever’. She was such a supportive mother that she immediately started to look for extracurricular classes at the local theater. We were very invested and my mother was very encouraging, to say the least. She taught me that if you are doing something that you are passionate about, that is all that matters, not the financial endeavor, just to do what you love. She wanted to instill that in her children, to make sure that our lives were set up for success in the way that we wanted, whatever that was, as long as we were happy.” 

Laicey has a bachelor’s degree in Theatrical Arts from Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah.

“I was very interested in every aspect of storytelling, I became fascinated by lighting design and how that influences a story, what is the backstage perspective, and what goes into making the story all that an audience sees on stage unfold before their eyes, not just the performance, not just the character-driven story. I get a lot of fulfillment through my passion for theater as a facilitator of the story,” says Laicey.

Awareness and Respect for The Planet


Laicey grew up in a small Utah suburb. Her parents split up when she was 3 weeks old and spent her childhood going back and forth between Utah and Arizona, where her father lived.

“I grew up mostly in the southwest. We have a wide range of mountains and natural beauty around us. The Rocky Mountains were 10 minutes away from my childhood home, it is a place of awe and serenity. Southern Utah has the red rock desert a very different kind of majesty and beauty. I paid a lot of attention to the environment and our involvement with it when I was a child,” remembers Laicey. “We used to go to see shows in the Tuacahn theater which incorporates the Red Rocks design into their stage and it is a great place to understand how humans are a part of the world instead of just sitting on top of the world. I was raised with a level of exposure and respect for the planet.”

It was that respect for the planet that inspired her to take action and create awareness of the waste generated by theater productions and find a way to effectively reuse those materials.

Waste: A Growing Problem


One of the biggest problems the environment faces is the generation of trash. According to The World Bank every year 2.01 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste is generated around the world. This is an average of 0.74 kilograms per person a day, but the range is from 0.11 to 4.54 kilograms. The waste generation also varies by country, being the high-income countries are the ones that generate 34% of the total waste although they only represent 16% of the world. 

Furthermore, 37% of waste ends up in a landfill. However, the waste that high-income countries generate has the potential to be recycled because 51% comprises plastic, paper, cardboard, metal, and glass. Unfortunately, this tendency doesn’t seem to decrease in the upcoming years because, by 2050, the worldwide waste is expected to be 3.40 billion tonnes.

In the case of theater, the waste problem was acknowledged and it became the motivation for the creation of The Broadway Green Alliance which was founded in 2008 in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Measure have been taken to be greener such as, changing all the marquee lights on Broadway to be energy efficient, making textile recycle drives, promoting the use of rechargeable batteries, installing a binder exchange program, encouraging regional theaters throughout the USA to be more environmentally friendly through their Green Captain program and more.

Final Strike Collaborative


After working in theater at various places, Laicey moved to New York City in 2017 and 2 years later, Broadway came to a halt when the pandemic began.

“I had opened an off-Broadway show three days before the pandemic hit and after 3 shows it had to shut down,” remembers Laicey. “That gave me time to think and to assess priorities and responsibilities on why I was working, why it was valuable to the world, and what was my motivation to continue. My answer was that I wanted to do something about the waste problem at the end of theater productions, so that is how Final Strike Collaborative came into being. Final Strike collaborative blossomed out of observation working in theater. I spent several years traveling around the country working at different regional theaters looking at the practices and the cycle of a show. The building process, design, building stage, installation into the theater, running the performance, and when the show closes, what do they do with the material? At every theater around the country, from high school level to college level, to regional theater and Broadway is the same thing: the show closes and you pack the material into a dumpster and it goes on to a dump field and you go on to the next show. And this shouldn’t be the case because this material exists beyond our eyesight. It’s still somebody’s problem somewhere in the world. And we still have responsibility for it.”

By 2020, Final Strike Collaborative was formally registered, a nonprofit organization that began with the transformation of a bench into a bookshelf right at Laicey´s apartment.

“There was a school bench that was used in “Clueless: The Musical” at Signature Theater and I was told to put it in the dumpster after we dismantled the scenography but I thought I could reuse it. So I took the wood in the subway and made a bookshelf for my apartment. After that, I thought, why aren’t we doing more of this? So I got an artist studio to be able to do more personally and that snowballed into getting more people involved and we started our nonprofit officially incorporated on May 4th, 2020,” says Laicey.

Now, Final Strike Collaborative has a board of 4 members and works with around 30 volunteers on specific projects. 

“We are a collective of artists,” says Laicey. “We have a program that incorporates volunteers in different capacities. We have done cleanups in the past in collaboration with the Park’s Department, we have a studio in the Bronx where we process the materials that get donated to us and we have artists who come in and turn the materials into art furniture, home decor or whatever they may think of. Our main focus is to save materials from landfills and provide space in New York City to artists who don’t normally have access to tools, materials, and a space to work, as well as a platform to sell their items. We also have an education initiative for the community where we hold workshops to develop eco-conscious consumerism for their daily practices and how to create useful things from material that would normally be discarded.” 

Environmental Awareness Through Recycling Workshops


“I found out about TPP through another board member, who was researching funding opportunities to help support Final Strike,” says Laicey. “When I found out that we were officially going to receive a grant from TPP, I felt elated! This weight in my chest that I didn’t even realize I was carrying around with me was lifted, and I continue to float every time I talk about TPP with others to this day! The financial support will help us launch the workshops program that I’ve been wanting to develop in FSC for several years now – and that alone is absolutely wonderful! To me, the value that comes with this grant, though, goes deeper than its monetary value. Just knowing that people outside of our organization heard about our efforts and believe in our cause enough to invest in us means everything to me. It’s proof that I’m not alone in my efforts to make positive change, and motivates me to keep striving towards our goals for Final Strike to help the community, and change the entertainment industry for the better.”

The seed grant will be used to promote the workshops in the community as well as help gather the supplies needed to complete the recycled creations and it will help to pay a percentage of the rent of the workshop studio space. 

“When I look at our world, something that concerns me most with our current culture is the mindlessness or intentional ignorance behind our actions. There is little societal encouragement to think beyond the current moment’s needs, or the ripple effect/consequences of our choices. It is what has led us to the climate crisis, and it also allows unethical business practices to flourish, some as extreme as sweatshops and child labor exploitation, with no meaningful accountability. I don’t believe the responsibility to fix these problems should be placed on the shoulders of the individuals that make up our society. The impact of a few key powerful individuals’ choices outweighs the impact of the choices made by individuals within the masses. I know this feels hopeless like it takes all control out of our hands. However, I do believe in the power of individual voices blending into a community – which is what I feel most hopeful about when I think about the future. We are strongest when united together towards a cause. If we, as a global community, use our voices and take intentional action together, we can enact real, tangible, and lasting change,” says Laicey.   

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