The true believers in Sacred Waste begin rounding up initiates into their tribe right outside the entrance to the Mardi Gras Zone venue. Dressed in tribal-inspired costumes made from plastic shopping bags, bottle caps, plastic cutlery, and milk jugs, they wave their arms and beckon everyone to learn their myths and participate in their rituals. The sounds of congo drums inside set the rhythmic, primitive tone.
The performance is built around the idea of a religious sect that worships plastic as a deity that permeates the earth and our bodies because it is immortal and will outlive us all. Led by about a dozen “plastic shamans” who each lead a portion of the show, the audience-initiates witness the origin of the plastic (fossil fuels) played out via a Chinese New Year’s style dragon with an enormous tail made of shopping bags. The show is very creative with the ways it blends a kind of cartoonish, over-the-top tribal mania with well-executed passages of dance, monologue, and vocal music.
Each portion of the show invites the audience to believe in an inverted world where waste is praised, factories are shrines, humans and animals are inferior to plastic’s perfection, and that the “false paths” of conservation are to be avoided. Convenience and consumption are true virtues, and “the cycle” of reuse must be broken to appease the goddess Dasani.
The audience is involved throughout. They’re invited to wear tribal masks made of plastic plates and gallon jugs, shake rattles made of water bottles, and even to get up and lead chants of the “polymeric runes” like polystyrene and polyethylene. The members of the Booyah Performing Arts Collective maintained a strong level of unity and commitment to their performance despite outnumbering the audience on opening night. Their enthusiasm was contagious, and with a full house, this show could become a true spectacle of sound and flying trash.
The show ends with a dancer imitating the Pacific Gyre Garbage Patch. His costume is comprised of long strands of bottle caps that whirl around him and clack together as he sings a wavering, incomprehensible song. It’s a fitting moment to end on, but I found the more personal interactions with the provided waste more sobering than the haunting dance. It’s one thing to participate in this crazy cult for an hour. It’s another to walk down the passageway of the Mardi Gras Zone warehouse as you exit, past pallets of water bottles and beads stacked stories high and settle back into the mainstream.
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