Sacred Waste: a Polymeric Ritual at the New Orleans Fringe Festival

I have a small part in a show called SACRED WASTE which was created by LSU Ph.D. student Bonny McDonald – which is playing in the upcoming New Orleans Fringe Fest.  The show involves dance, poetry, ritual, elaborate costumes (made of 100% recycled plastic), and explores many aspects of the relationship between humans and plastic – including the manufacture of it here in Louisiana, and some introductory polymer chemistry!  SACRED WASTE was one of 30 shows jury selected to play in the New Orleans Fringe Festival (out of > 200 entries).

SWphoto

This performance art show is a unique blend of art and science – it conveys some of its information in some unusual and compelling ways: the costumes, the set, and all the props are made of discarded plastic – each costume is made of 100-300 plastic bags, one costume is made of about 300 plastic bottle caps, there's a dragon made of about 3000 bags, and a tree made of plastic – yet we're reminded that all the plastic on stage during the show only represents the amount of plastic Americans discard about every 100 milliseconds. One scene in the show personifies the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in a whirling dance…one scene involves a shaman ecstatically scrawling the structures of polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene on a plastic screen…one scene depicts the flow of plastic through a bird's body. Each scene in the show explores a different aspect of our relationship with plastic and mixes science with mysticism, animal instincts with consumerism, creation myths with post-apocalyptic evolution and the "new nature". If we taught more science this way (just a little more of it, certainly not all of it) – we might change a lot of people's attitude toward science, in the way that this whole show hopefully also changes its audience's attitudes toward plastic.

The New Orleans Fringe Fest has nearly 80 total shows (30 juried plus 47 "Bring Your Own Venue" shows) and it likes to feature very oddball stuff (one of its own tag lines is "wild, weird, fresh original theater of all types"). Since almost the whole cast is from Baton Rouge, we (like many of the fringe shows) are shelling out a lot of our own money to finance staying in New Orleans for the duration of the festival and mounting the show (fringe fest shows around the world are all a labor of love – even after ticket sales, a fringe show typically costs the performers lots of money – even the famous Edinburgh Fringe Fest strongly reminds participants of this in their guidelines). To try to cover some of our expenses we've started a Kickstarter campaign – so if you are so inclined, please visit our SACRED WASTE Kickstarter page (only active for the next 3 weeks) and help us ease the financial burden of taking the show to the Fringe Festival.

(Photo by Max Trombly, showing the creator of the show, Bonny McDonald (left), and Jen LeBlanc (right).)

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