Sacred Waste repurposes single-use plastic items as part of play

Photo by MAX TROMBLYDancers in the interactive production Sacred Waste are Bonny McDonald, left, and Jen Leblanc. Show caption
Photo by MAX TROMBLYDancers in the interactive production Sacred Waste are Bonny McDonald, left, and Jen Leblanc.

Worship is a powerful word, one that immediately attracts attention.

The worship of who? Or what?

Bonny McDonald says it’s plastic.

Oh, she doesn’t worship it at a deity, but she admits that she’s as guilty as everyone around her in taking for granted how much plastic she uses, then throws away each day.

“I didn’t realize this until I saw the plastic we’d collected for our show in one place,” she said.

She’s referring to Sacred Waste, an interactive play that opens the LSU HopKins Black Box theater’s 2013 spring season on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

“The play is interactive, but participation is optional,” McDonald said. “I wouldn’t want anyone to stay away from the play because they don’t want to participate. Anyone who wants to come to the stage is welcome, and those who want to stay in the audience can.”

Either way, McDonald promises fun.

“It’s going to be fun and funny,” she said. “I think everyone will have a good time.”

McDonald is creator and director of this production. She also is a graduate student in LSU’s Department of Communication Studies/Performance Studies Area, which presents the HopKins Black Box productions.

McDonald submitted her idea to the department, which accepted it. She then began working on the story.

“It’s a story about the history of plastic presented in vignettes,” McDonald said. “We go from the dinosaurs to oil to modern day use of plastic and our relationship to it.”

The play takes the form of a parodic ritual and features a cast of dancers, actors and musicians. “This show is seriously ridiculous,” McDonald said. “It speaks through movement and materials. The audience is encouraged to touch and wear items. It will be just as fun to sit back and watch as to play with the cast.”

Sacred Waste also features live music, dance numbers and elaborate costumes featuring “up-cycled” plastic materials.

“I’ve been working with local artists and high school students to design the set and props out of single-use plastic items,” McDonald said. “The whole effect is pretty wild, especially the dragon.”

The dragon was created by students at the Math, Science and Arts Academy in Plaquemine. McDonald worked with two classes there, which studied environmental issues. The students then created a dragon from used plastic items.

“I didn’t ask for a dragon, but now I have one in our stage set,” McDonald said, laughing. “I worked with about 100 students at the school, and they’re all going to come to the play.”

McDonald’s mother-in-law, Southern University Law Professor Gail Stephenson, also had her students collect plastic caps.

“She and her students really got into it,” McDonald said. “We’ll be using the plastic caps on stage. We’ll give them to audience members to toss on stage.”

That’s the fun part, but there’s a lesson to be learned. McDonald learned it while working on the project.

“It’s really made me think more about the environment,” she said. “I now talk to the stores where I shop about making better ecological choices.”

Despite the fact that plastics are not biodegradable, pollute watersheds and contain chemicals highly toxic to humans and animals, Americans throw away 1,500 plastic water bottles alone every second.

“We use a plastic cup for 10 minutes, and then it stays on the planet essentially forever,” McDonald said. “I want to use the performance to begin repairing the apparent disconnect between our rational recognition that plastic damages our ecosystem and our daily participation in ‘rituals’ of producing plastic waste.”

McDonald refers to these rituals as worship.

Maybe it isn’t worship in the conventional sense of the word, but it does grab one’s attention.

And through the fun, interactive experience of Sacred Waste, maybe it will prompt change.