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A wake-up call: Show uses 1,500 coffee cups to fight waste

Can she get a flat white?: The butoh theater show “Wake Up and Smell the Coffee,” opening April 20 in Greenpoint, warns of an ecological apocalypse if people do not stop using disposable cups.
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Their cups runneth over!

A dance performance featuring 1,500 coffee cups littered across its set will spill onto the stage of Greenpoint’s Triskelion Arts on April 20–22. The director of “Wake Up and Smell the Coffee” says that it aims to confront people with the amount of waste they produce by drinking out of disposable drink vessels.

“People are so stressed out, they don’t want to hear about it,” said Vangeline, a Gowanus resident. “Maybe one way to show people was to collect all of these cups, put them onstage, and show you this is the amount of garbage you create.”

The Vangeline Theater company specializes in a type of Japanese theater called butoh, an avant-garde dance form meant to startle the audience and bring them face-to-face with issues they would otherwise ignore, according to the group’s founder.

“It’s considered the dance of the unconscious things that we don’t want to look at,” said Vangeline.

The show features a topic that many have closed their eyes to — global climate change. Dancers will wade through a sea of coffee cups as they act out a story set a few years in the future, when global warming has become so serious that mankind is on the verge of extinction.

Vangeline and her dancers collected the coffee cups from trash cans around the city, washing them in the sink before they became a part of the set.

The show originally premiered in 2015, but — shockingly — the avant-garde dance piece had little effect on the city’s garbage consumption. So Vangeline decided to bring the piece back in order to make her case again.

“Things haven’t changed — I walk down the street and see garbage overflowing with cups,” she said. “I sort of feel like I’m going to be doing this until I’m blue in the face.”

This time, she hopes that audiences will walk away with a newfound sense of purpose and a plan to get rid of their wasteful coffee cup habits.

“I hope that people who come to the show will get a mug and stop consuming these coffee cups that end up in landfills. I hope it empowers people who feel like they can’t take action, that they can take a small action in daily life,” she said.

“Wake Up and Smell the Coffee” at Triskelion Arts (106 Calyer St. at Banker Street in Greenpoint, (718) 389–3473, www.vangeline.com). April 20–22 at 8 pm. $16.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Posted 12:00 am, April 13, 2017
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