Awakening Earth, the eco-play by the Maya Joy Dancers that was a big attraction at the Pine Earth Expo this summer, is coming to Payson.
At the invitation of Art Russo, president of the Payson Center for Spiritual Awareness, there will be two performances of the play at the PCSA, at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 23.
“I know there were a lot of people in town who were interested in it but missed seeing it in Pine,” says Russo. “We also thought it carries a wonderful message for kids to experience.”
The hour-long performance is presented entirely in pantomime, music, and dance, with a narrator explaining environmental facts. More narration has been added to the Payson performances to make it clearer for children.
According to the company’s head choreographer, Su von Mazo of Strawberry, who conceived the program, “Our goal is to show the plight of the earth today—the environmental problems that confront us—but to be positive about it. Just as our brains and skills have led us to create this technological civilization that makes these problems, we must have hope that our wits and ingenuity—if our hearts are in the right place—will lead us to find solutions for these problems.”
“So, although the first part of the play shows how we pollute the earth,” continues Von Mazo, “we quickly transition to a message of hope and joy.
“We show how the young people of the planet will convince us to clean up the earth, and how the natural cycles of the earth will be restored to harmony and balance.
“So most of the play is actually about the joy and wonder we feel at the earth’s ‘awakening,’ and how beautiful the earth is then.”
Von Mazo, who portrays the Water Goddess in the play and has had an extensive background in dance (she currently teaches belly dance classes at the East-West Exchange in Payson), explains, “We thought the metaphor of dance and music could best express that joy and wonder.”
“For instance,” she continues, “when we have Mother Earth – who’s played by Diana Vincent, a wonderfully fluid dancer from Payson – when Diana rises up from her ‘awakening,’ at first she starts slowly swaying to the music, then she hesitatingly walks around, amazed at rediscovering her body, and then, as the rhythm increases, she starts dancing freely as she feels the joy of being alive again. I think that feeling is communicated viscerally through the dance to the audience. So that what we perceive is that the earth is a beautiful, joyful place once it’s free and whole again.”
Other characters in the play portray the restoration of the earth’s natural cycles. Melody Harney of Payson, in a vibrantly energetic number as the Sun and Fire Goddess, depicts the explosive fury of lava and fire. Patricia Melchi of Strawberry displays the hypnotic magic of stars and moonlight as the Night Goddess. And Diane McHenry of Payson exhibits the beauty of flowers as the Goddess Flora.
Two young girls from Payson, Grace Stacklie and Autumn Bailey, charmingly express various roles as attendant fairies, spirits of innocence and village girls.
Blue Owl, Nancy Kane, and Nick Berezenko of Pine are the polluters in the early part of the play. And playing the two-faced “BP” character, which drills for oil and pollutes the earth, is the marvelously sardonic Paul Owens of Pine.
“The play is a group effort,” says Von Mazo. “Everyone contributed their insights and inspirations. We all care about the earth and each cast member had something that they wanted to say.
“Each dancer chose their own music and invented their own choreography for their solos.”
As a result, Von Mazo points out, the program features an eclectic and wide range of music, from the Medieval Babes’ My Lady Sleeps to Sure-As-Not by AfroCelt. From the mid-east rhythms of Amarain by Putumayo to the soulful strains of Schubert’s Ave Maria.
“What’s great,” says Von Mazo,” is that we’ve had many comments about how well it all works together. People say they’re really surprised and delighted with our music.”
“It’s just like the dance in the program,” she adds. “Though a lot of the movements are derived from belly dance, it’s really a fusion of styles. The ‘Shiva Line’ number, for instance, where the Graces wave their arms one behind the other to show the coordination and harmony of the universe, which comes from ancient Chinese dance and more recently Bombay Bollywood. We also draw on ballet and modern dance.
“It’s like we’re taking the best elements from every culture. It’s quite international in flavor.”
And that, Von Mazo believes, is a good thing. She hopes that that’s another message that the program subtly conveys.
“If we’re going to solve the problems of this planet,” she says, “we’re going to have to draw on the best that each nation and each culture has to offer. We’re all in this boat together. It’s the only earth we have.”
Show times for the Payson performances are 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 23 at the Payson Center for Spiritual Awareness, which is a non-profit spiritual center located at 107 West Wade, Suite 2, just off Hwy. 87 in Payson. Tickets are $10 for adults and $2 for kids 14 and under.
For more information or to purchase tickets in advance (space is limited at the facility) contact PCSA President Art Russo at (928) 951-5376.