A queer, ecological riff on a familiar tale
The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater will present a workshop premiere of a new play, Trash Mermaids, written by senior Miles Dupuis Carey and directed by Princeton alumna Catherine Andre, on May 10, 11 and 13 at 8:00 p.m. and May 12 at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m. in the Donald G. Drapkin Studio at Lewis Arts complex on the Princeton campus. The new work is a queer, ecological riff on the story of “The Little Mermaid.” An audience talkback led by Assistant Professor of Theater Brian Herrera will follow the May 10 performance. Admission is free, however seating is limited and on a first-come, first-seated basis.
Trash Mermaids tells the story of three young LGBTQ people navigating community, family, identity, and desire—mirrored in an underwater trashscape where genderqueer merpeople build their tails and their voices from the discarded objects and fragmented texts that sink down from the normative human world above. The play explores identity formation, divisions between different LGBTQ communities, and the simultaneous freedom and toxicity of remixing and recycling cultural narratives that traditionally erase and marginalize.
Carey, an English major pursuing certificates in theater, environmental studies and gender and sexuality studies, began working on Trash Mermaids last spring. Some of the inspiration for the play came from a course he took in spring of his sophomore year “Performing the Planet,” an interdisciplinary course that brought literature, performance, and gender studies into an urgent conversation about climate change. He was also influenced by a course with Assistant Professor of Theater Brian Herrera, “Gender Crossings in American Musical Theater,” a course cross-listed in Theater, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and American Studies, and his participation in the Princeton-Bread Loaf Summer Study program in Oxford for six weeks supported by the English Department, where he studied cultural and environmental definitions of waste in contemporary theory, media, and art.
Other course work of note that relates to his senior thesis project include “Introductory Playwriting” with Nathan Davis and “Intermediate Playwriting” with Lauren Yee and Naomi Iizuka, one of Princeton’s recent Roger S. Berlind ’52 Playwrights-in-Residence; “Introduction to Musical Theatre Writing,” taught by Professor of Theater Stacy Wolf and Lecturers in Theater Robert Lee ’92 and Randall Eng; and “Intermediate Screenwriting.”
Carey also studied with Tony-nominated lighting designer and Director of the Program in Theater Jane Cox through the course, “Theatrical Design Studio,” and he has worked as a designer with student theater groups Theater Intime, Princeton University Players, and as designer and performer with Princeton Shakespeare Company. Design is a key component of the production, creating the visual world of the story using salvaged plastic collected on campus. Carey designed the costumes for the production and junior Annabel Barry created the immersive recycled scenic design. A number of campus entities helped to accumulate the recycled materials used in the production.
Last spring, Carey served as assistant director on a new senior thesis play by Edwin Rosales, Princeton Class of 2017, Spring on Fire: A Guatemalan Story, directed by faculty member Suzanne Agins. Through that production, he gained experience as an active collaborator in the development of a new play for its first production.
Catherine Andre, the director and co-creator of this workshop production, first met Carey at Interlochen Arts Academy, a fine arts boarding high school in Michigan. She graduated from Princeton in 2017 with a degree in English and certificates in theater and humanistic studies. As a freelance director in New York City, Andre is committed to shaping heightened texts into visceral performances, emboldening female characters and interrogating a shared human condition. More information about her work and upcoming projects can be found at www.catherine-andre.com.
The all-student cast for Trash Mermaids includes seniors Jared Brendon Hopper and Jasmine Wang, junior Chase Hommeyer, and first year students Daniel Benitez and Rosie Vasen. Students taking on production roles in addition to Carey and Barry include Yechen Hu as lighting designer, Zara Jayant as sound designer, Diana Chen as associate costumer, Nora Aguiar as stage manager, and Nicholas Judt as assistant stage manager.
Faculty advisors on the production are Jane Cox for design, R.N. Sandberg on playwriting, and Suzanne Agins on the development and production of a new play.
This play is intended for adult audiences and may not be suitable for children.
For more information on this event, the Program in Theater and the more than 100 other performances, exhibitions, readings, screenings, concerts and lectures offered each year by the Lewis Center for the Arts, most of them free, visit arts.princeton.edu.