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Sustainable Design - This Sinking Island: Designing for Climate Change

We are proud that our creative process for This Sinking Island embodied the values of being low-impact with a small carbon footprint. At every step of the way, we challenged ourselves to create the visual world of the show from as many reused and repurposed materials as possible.

Out of limitations often come incredible ingenuity and no one displayed that better than our Visual Designer, Irina Kuraeva. As Irina notes, "I didn’t have any artistic limitations; every form, color, and design were welcomed." Charged with designing and sourcing the costumes and scenic elements, most items were found in personal collections (e.g. shells for props), thrift stores and our biggest treasure chest of all: Materials for the Arts. (If you are an artist or an educator and you don't know about this amazing NYC resource, well, you should!)

Please enjoy this photo essay highlighting the incredible work of our Visual Designer Irina Kuraeva.

(L ro R): Arden Winant (performer), Irina Kuraeva (Designer), Tiffany McCue (Stage Manager), Kimberly Gomez (Performer)

Irina (center) with members of the creative team at the 2018 Harvest Festival in Ft. Tryon Park. (L ro R): Arden Winant (performer), Irina Kuraeva (Visual Designer), Tiffany McCue (Stage Manager), Kimberly Gomez (Performer)


All but one of the suitcases were donated by various people involved in the project with the exception of one new suitcase. We needed to purchase a hard shell case that a performer could kneel/sit/stand upon. Properly functioning wheels were also a bonus for transport!

Irina hand painting the suitcases on the day of the show! Always calm under pressure.

Base Costumes The base costumes (pants and shirt) were mostly repurposed from the original production of the show in 2017. Irina drew outlines of maps on the shirts to represent the global nature of the found text featured in the first part of the play.

Sneak peak performance at the Harvest Festival. Photo credit: Carrie Nichols.

Mermaid costumes

Part two of the play features a trio of siblings who imagine themselves to be in a fantasy mermaid world, as an escape from the climate change impacted Manhattan in which they live. Irina hand-sewed fantastical costumes using fabric, CDs and plastic pieces sourced from Materials for the Arts, a donated fleece vest and other items. Irina shares, "Once I stopped by a thrift shop in East Village to look for maybe a costume piece or a prop, but instead I found a whole dress that was made out silver sequin material. It looked like something that a mermaid would wear. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up using all of it (the intensity of the sequins was too much), but you could see some of it here and there in the costumes."

(L to R): Kimberly Gomez, Katherine O'Sullivan, Arden Winant and Team Irina created a costume for Gully (far right, played by Arisael Rivera), a mysterious stranger who arrives covered in plastic. She sewed a base costume out of found textiles and added on panels of thin plastic ponchos, which were repurposed from damaged costume pieces from our original 2017 run.

Gully, far right, covered in plastic.

Fabric Props

In order to bring water to life as a character in the play, we utilized several pieces of blue fabric found at - you guessed it! - MFTA. The round patchwork piece was sewn together by another designer, our former Resident Scenic Designer Sarah Edkins. As one audience member wrote to us, "...the biggest joy of all was watching the little kids wave the blue water fabric."

Performances at Sherman Creek (l) and the Sugar Hill Children's Museum (r).

There were some very specific items that we had to purchase new:

- 2 pairs of pants

- 4 pairs of knee pads

- 4 plastic ponchos

- 1 hard shell suitcase (purchased at the very last minute after exhausting all avenues for purchasing second-hand or getting it donated)

An extra bonus was that thanks to the rehearsal space sponsorship of the Sugar Hill Children's Museum, we were able to hold almost all of our rehearsals in a green certified building!

Overall, we are proud to report that 80% of the materials used were found, recycled or repurposed!

Thank you for taking a look behind the scenes at our "green" theatre practices!


Are you inspired by art that spurs action? Please donate to our Year End Campaign! Our goal is to raise $5,000 by 11.15.18 to support dynamic, inclusive investigative theatre!

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