Shakespeare and Sustainability, Who Knew?
By Jamie Jensen
It is summertime in Rye and LawnChair Theatre, Westchester’s’ traveling Shakespeare company is back. This season’s production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” opened July 19 on the Rye Village Green. The season concludes with two performances at Rye Town Park on July 27 and 28. LawnChair Theatre has been contemporizing Shakespeare in Westchester parks since 2006 and this year they find themselves in good company with the Rye Sustainability Committee in a production with a message of environmental awareness.
“The Tempest” is a tragicomedy that begins with the titled storm at sea, in which the Queen of Naples and Duchess of Milan, along with their courtiers and crew, are shipwrecked. They come to shore on a magical island, populated by wizard Prospero, his daughter Miranda, and fantastic creatures. The castaways think the shipwreck was an accident, but Prospero knows better. This summer’s director, Julia Thaxter-Gourlay, has set the production on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an accidental floating island made from discarded plastic.
For the actors and production crew, Julia’s vision has amplified their desire to be an environmentally-aware theater company. Alex Theodoropoulos, the set designer and a visual artist who specializes in museum installations, estimates they have already used more than 300 cubic feet of plastic garbage collected from DPWs across the county to create the island and costumes. As a company, LawnChair is also committing to a plastic-free concession and is seeking support from members of the Rye Sustainability Committee (RSC) to help spread the word. This year, there will be no water bottles in sight and you will find fresh fruit and unwrapped goodies for sale at the concession.
According to Rye City Councilwoman Sara Goddard, former RSC chair, “We are thrilled to discover that the LawnChair Theater’s production of ‘The Tempest’ will embody sustainability themes. We’re also encouraged by the play’s goal of raising environmental awareness, recognizing that this objective parallel’s Rye Sustainability’s positive message of community, health, and safety.”
LawnChair will highlight area businesses that have signed the Sound Shore Last Straw pledge including: Bareburger, Rye Granola Bar, Le Pain Quotidien, Manursing Island Club, Morgan’s Fish House, Rosemary & Vine, Ruby’s Oyster Bar and Bistro, The Red Pony, and Town Dock. Melissa Grieco, current chair of the Sustainability Committee, has approached Rye Town Park and the soon-to-open restaurant in the park, The Barley Beach House, to sign on to the Last Straw pledge as well. Residents who worry about the amount of plastic garbage found along our waterfront beaches are hoping that this production will encourage Rye Town officials, beach clubs, and more restaurants to join the pledge.
According to co-founder and artistic director, Peter Green, “LawnChair is not an activist theatre company. Rather, we contemporize Shakespeare without rewriting him and create community through our work and our play. We are about bringing families to the parks in Westchester to laugh, cry, and enjoy theater, and if we get you to think about the world a bit differently in the process, that’s great.”
Under the auspices of The Rye Arts Center, this classic comedy will be performed outdoors in parks in Rye City, Chappaqua, Rye Brook, New Rochelle, and Port Chester. “The Tempest” will be performed rain or shine at Rye Town Park July 27 and 28 at 6:30. A suggested donation of $20 for adults and $10 for children and students is requested.
So, bring a plastic-free picnic, a blanket or lawn chair down to Rye Town Park, and remind your friends and family that despite our imperfections we can do small things to make our world a better place while having a good time.
Peter Green, best known as the Rye Middle School Social Worker, plays Prospero in the LawnChair Theatre production of “The Tempest”. Pictured with Hillary Webster and Hillary and Emily Vrissis in rehearsal.
Set construction of “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”
Pails of discarded plastic that was left or washed up at Oakland Beach.