[Originally published in the Star & Wave newspaper on August 23, 2023.]

By Roy Steinberg, Producing Artistic Director 

Just as surely as the waters in the Delaware Bay flow effortlessly into the Atlantic Ocean at Cape May Point, the themes of Cape May Stage’s current show, “Art,” flow seamlessly into the text of our next play, “The Garbologists.”

Consider how the wind and sea turn discarded bottles into smoothed sea glass, or the tides take broken bits of dock and wash them ashore reshaped as driftwood.  Take a stroll through West End Garage and see works of art created from the detritus of treasures swept in by the sea.

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is an aphorism that resonates in both of our plays, and has a profound meaning for those of us lucky enough to live in Cape May.  In “Art,” a friendship is tested when one man buys a piece of modern art.  In “The Garbologists,” an unlikely friendship is formed when two sanitation workers discover a common secret.  The latter may well be among the 21st century’s emerging artists. 

At the turn of the last century, Marcel Duchamp, who was part of the Dada Movement, took discarded items like a toilet or bicycle wheel and, in an “anti-art” stance, looked at them through a new lens.  Some homeless people in urban areas today make artistic statements simply by juxtaposing items they find.  A sponge Statue of Liberty hat discarded by a tourist in New York City may end up on the head of a street person who also wears a torn army jacket decorated with buttons and carries a Gucci shopping bag.

Thomas Dambo, a Danish artist whose work has been shown in France and Germany, created a 25-foot-tall troll sculpture out of recycled material in Hainesport, N.J.  His “canvas,” consisting of found objects and repurposed trash, comports with his credo — “We should praise our trash.”

Archaeologists and anthropologists often study the trash of ancient civilizations and remote tribes to understand how the groups lived.  Will scientists in the future look at plastic figures from Happy Meals and conclude that 21st-century America highly valued them? 

The theater is a place where ideas are discussed and the argument of a play has the potential of changing people’s long-held beliefs. It is a powerful art form because it engages both our mind and passion.

I frequently hear from patrons, “I’m still thinking about that play I saw a week ago.” What a remarkable experience that is!

“Art” will continue on Cape May Stage’s main stage through August 27. “The Garbologists” runs September 13 through October 22. 

For more information about our season, please visit www.capemaystage.org.

Cape May Stage © 2024. All rights reserved.

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