When you think of materials used to create costumes, you picture fabric and thread, not hundreds of straws, grocery bags, or computer cords. Then again, the Carnival of Ruin is not your average theater production.
It is the story of a careless carnival barker, visited by a mystical fortune teller, who convinces him to live a more sustainable existence. The moral of the story is to reduce, reuse and recycle, and the action revolves around six dances with stories of change. The Carnival of Ruin will “come to town” for one day only on May 29 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. at East Goshen Township Park.
From a tent crocheted from thousands of plastic bags to a Target bag tutu, a snake whose scales are colorful neckties to the strong man’s water bottle weights, every show element was crafted from post-consumer waste. Each outfit represents an environmental issue: consumerism, ocean plastics, dependency on devices, recycling, climate change, responsibility, and more. Since the costumes are made from non-traditional materials, each piece took several months to a year to put together.
The play is an original production created by three associate professors from the WCU Department of Theatre & Dance – Constance Case, Gretchen Studlien-Webb, and Maria Urrutia. A few years ago, Constance had a costume exhibit, which included a wedding dress made of plastic bags. When Maria and Gretchen saw the dress, they asked Constance if they could collaborate on a dance piece where the costumes would be made from post-consumer waste.
They took their show on the road and Gretchen and Maria danced at a few conferences with two of Constance’s costumes. Soon, they wove their ideas for a script and costumes together and then brought in Martin Dallago to design and build the sets, Jeremy Gable to write dialogue, and Damien Figueras to compose music. You can now find Maria and Gretchen backstage, and all roles will be performed by WCU Theatre and Dance students and alumni. The audience will be a part of the show and will travel to three separate stage areas throughout the play.
“One thing that surprised us is how easy it was to collect post-consumer waste. We knew that things such as plastic bags and bottles were an issue but did not imagine how quickly people would donate what we requested,” explained Maria.
“An example is one morning we realized that we needed a few more plastic bags to complete a costume piece and put out a call, within an hour we had all the bags we needed and then some. We hope Carnival of Ruin becomes a relic of things past that sits in a museum where visitors come to see it and wonder ‘who ever had that much plastic?'”
Miss The Carnival of Ruin exhibit? Watch their script read-thru here or catch their costumes during the Earth Day Art Stroll on April 22. More details can be found on their website, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.
Like everyone, the pandemic caused the production to pivot – losing some interactive carnival elements and delaying the performances by a year. However, for many of us, this year has proven the importance of nature in our daily lives, and the work that needs to go into protecting our environment for future generations.
Show organizers recommend grabbing free tickets soon. Each performance only has 100 tickets — so, don’t miss your spot under the big top!