"One Word: Plastics!"

April 13, 2017

The title of this blog (if you hadn't already guessed) is the iconic quote from The Graduate. Meant as a suggestion for a viable career path in 1967, I'm not sure how pervasive anyone knew that plastic would become.


I recently had the privilege to attend a meeting at the U.N. Foundation regarding the upcoming Oceans conference. I was particularly struck by a presentation given by Alejandro Laguna, Information Officer of the UN Environment Programme. The numbers are shattering: 322 million tons of plastic are produced each year.  One third of these are single use like plastic bags.


This statistic, and others, informed two recent investigative rehearsals for This Sinking Island.


 Plastic materials at rehearsal (Photo credit: Ben Gougeon)


At our most recent rehearsal, we explored the theme of Topography, in particular taking a look at three snapshots of Staten Island: 1500s, inhabited by the Lenape; 2012-present, post-Sandy and an unknown future which sees sea levels rising and threatening nearly all of the landmass. Rehearsal concluded with an imaginary plastic island.


Plastic materials could be appealing as set and costume design because they are so prolific and also, quite often lightweight (Sarah, our Resident Set Designer) was quite pleased to be carrying 2 featherweight bags to rehearsal vs. lugging some serious pounds! For the last segment of rehearsal she invited us to explore and improvise within a topography of plastic - plastic grocery bags tied into a long rope, leftover flimsy blue ponchos, swaths of black garbage bags as well as rigid plastic items.


Photos by Ben Gougeon 


Another rehearsal was dedicated to the theme of Adaption. In his presentation, Alejandro jokingly suggested that the future of plastics involved edible plastics that each citizen would be required to literally consume. It was an outrageous suggestion meant get our attention (it definitely made me look up from taking notes!) and begged the question in graphic terms: What can we do with the future of plastics? What can we do with all of the already existing plastics? How much plastic are we already inadvertently consuming? What is the interplay between our oil-based plastic consumption and rising sea levels?


An Exploration of Plastics and "Adaptation"


These are questions that we will continue parsing over the next phase of development.


In the meantime, in anticipation of Earth Day, we invite you to learn more about our plastic problem and take some personal action at http://cleanseas.org.

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