Waving goodbye: Play set underwater deals with displacement

Quite common: The visually spectacular theater show “Sea of Common Catastrophe,” opens at the Irondale Center on June 20.
Melisa Cardona

Real estate is no better, down where it’s wetter!

A New Orleans theater company will bring a surreal show about gentrification in an underwater city to Fort Greene’s Irondale Center starting on June 15. “Sea of Common Catastrophe” will use video projections, original songs, and an eye-popping two-level set to examine how a city can change in the face of disaster, said its director.

“The show is an imagistic theater performance about the displacement and change in cities in the U.S. and throughout the world,” said Jeff Becker. “A lot of these changes have positive and negative effects on neighborhoods, and it explores the complicity and complexities of it all.”

The story, inspired by a passage in the Gabriel Garcia Marquez book “Sea of Lost Time,” follows a seaside town drowned by the ocean, and what happens when its residents miraculously return and try to rebuild beneath the waves.

Becker, who lived in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina, said that he saw first-hand how little those re-developing the city cared about its original residents.

“They invited in people who could afford to live there, and people who [had been] living there couldn’t afford to come back,” said Becker.

“It was a clear distinction of race and class.”

The one-hour show could take place anywhere, said Becker, but for the Brooklyn production he filmed various blocks and buildings in Kings County to make the work feel more immediate.

“The work is visually stunning and our set design is visibly transforming with live musicians and video mapping,” he said.

“It feels like a dream world.”

The Lafayette Avenue Inspirational Ensemble choir will join the four-member cast, singing original tunes based on stories about gentrification.

Becker and his company, ArtSpot Productions, want audiences to consider how it relates to their neighborhoods. After certain shows, community leaders in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill will join the actors to discuss how development has affected their communities.

“We are focused on arts and activism, and we do shows about the environment, race, and gentrification and we’re going to talk about the change and how its affected Brooklyn,” he said.

“The show itself is abstract and its universal. I want people to be concerned about how change happens, who comes in and who has left, and where there can be improvement. The goal for me is to inspire change, not judgment, and talk about the effect it can have on a neighborhood.”

“Sea of Common Catastrophe” at Irondale Center [85 S. Oxford St. between Fulton Street and Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 488–9233, www.irondale.org. June 15–30, Wed–Sat at 8 pm, except June 21 at 7:30 pm. $25 ($10 on June 15, 16, and 21).

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.
A people displaced: “The Sea of Common Catastrophe” follows a towns in the aftermath of a disaster, and is also a metaphorical take on gentrification, said director Jeff Becker.
Melisa Cardona

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