Did you see our plastic replica of the Brooklyn Bridge? If you are anywhere near it, you won’t miss it. It’s pretty big. But did you see the rapping panda bear standing beside it? We’re not kidding. There’s actually a whole team of animals traveling with the Plastic Bridge Project, spreading the message about plastic pollution in a play called ‘Wow! The Sea is made of Plastic!’
Hot snow, clean dirt, dry water. Doesn’t make sense, does it? For theatre group Droog Water (in English: Dry Water) it does. Rhodé Gonggrijp (26) and Angelie Wassink (29), the founders, directors, producers and actors of this group, are writing theatre pieces for kids about heavy and serious subjects, but portraying them in a fun and lighthearted manner. They chose their name because it’s fiction, it’s contradictory and pretty funny, just like their plays! Imagine a panda bear rapping about plastic pollution. Hilarious right? Impact AND laughter. We’re loving it.
Like Laurel and Hardy
Rhodé and Angelie are hilarious. At least, they think so. They met during their studies Theatre and Education in Utrecht. Angelie lives in Amsterdam and she loves to do ballet barre, or as she calls it ‘ballet on speed!’, she enjoys the occasional Dutch Bitterbal (or this veggie week, a ‘bietenbal’) and is more and more aware of her plastic footprint: ‘There’s plastic in everything these days!’ Rhodé lives in Haarlem, and as a little girl – walking around in her mother’s heels – she already knew she wanted to become an actress. As a backup plan she registered for a ‘Theatre maker’ preliminary program, got accepted, and discovered that this was her true calling. She loves wall climbing and is making sure her new home becomes ‘as CO2 efficient as possible!’
The Leonardo moment
One and a half years ago, Rhodé was walking on the beach and had a Leonardo moment. She felt an uncontrollable urge to write a play about plastic pollution (obviously, it was a Di Caprio moment, not Da Vinci). Her partner in mime, Angelie, was enthusiastic about the plan as well, so they got started. ‘We did a lot of research,’ says Rhodé. ‘Especially when you’re working on an educational piece, you need to check your facts.’ Angelie adds: ‘That’s why we involved the National Youth Council (NJR). The students on this council are amazing. They take a year off of their studies to commit to making a change in the world. They helped us a lot. And of course we watched loads of documentaries about plastic pollution. The storyline slowly developed, and we became more and more educated about this issue ourselves.’ Did this play change their lifestyle? Rhodé: ‘Actually, yes. This show has confronted us with the plastic problem. We though “if we’re doing this play, we will have to change our lifestyle and practice what we preach!” We’re starting small, we’re currently in our vegetarian week and of course we’re bringing our Doppers everywhere.’
Plastic micro bead beat
‘We write theatre pieces for kids’, says Rhodé. ‘So to really speak to our target audience, for ‘Wow! The Sea is made of Plastic!’ we decided to write the play from the perspective of our fellow inhabitants on this planet: animals!’ Angelie was very excited and when the character P. Bear was introduced, she immediately came up with a rap about pollution. ‘Rhodé told me “no way this panda bear is going to rap”, but he sure is rapping in our show now!’ And we’re so glad!
The play is about two girls (yes, humans) who encounter all kinds of animals and learn about plastic pollution as they travel the world. All characters are played by Rhodé and Angelie. Angelie: ‘In the beginning, we had very literal costumes: when I transformed into a polar bear backstage, I had to put on a polar bear suit. It helped me get in character, but it was a hassle and the play didn’t need it. Now we have some accessories which represent a character, but we leave the rest of the polar bear up to the imagination of the kids. They don’t need everything spelled out for them.’
When Dolf became Dopper
The play ‘Wow! The Sea is made of Plastic’ wasn’t written for Dopper, but it matched perfectly with our mission. Angelie: ‘Our contact with Dopper started a long time ago with a karaoke session at the Patronaat in Haarlem. We exchanged business cards and kept in touch. And last year, our collaboration really kicked off!’ Rhodé: ‘Our play became a part of Dopper’s Plastic Bridge Project. We had already translated our play into English, because we are performing during the international art festival in South Africa, so when they asked us to tag along and perform in New York, we jumped right on board. Our dolphin initially was called Dolf, but we soon changed it to Dopper for this project.’
The best job in the world
Angelie: ‘We want to use our plays as discussion starters. We introduce a subject that is that’s on top of the popular agenda, like pollution or bullying, and we will offer information – without any finger pointing – and invite people to share their opinions at the end of the play.’ Rhodé adds: ‘We have the best job in the world. I know people often have a bad connotation with “educational theatre”, but for me, there’s nothing more beautiful than a play that really conveys a message. People believe in our work because it actually touches something that matters. We’re playfully – pun intended – inspiring people to take action.’