We are two days away from the performance of Replay: Shelter Island! I am so pleased with how this project is progressing. We have received such a warm welcome from the people of Shelter Island. The community members we interviewed on Monday were so generous in sharing their stories about their lives and about their beautiful and fascinating island.
This week we have been working in the Haven’s Barn at the Historical Society. Barns seem to be a theme for In the Water. Luckily the spring weather has allowed us to work in the airy space with the big doors open. When not working in the barn, our home base has been the library. The Shelter Island Library is always busy, as it is a a place for school children and retirees alike to meet. While we are writing a script in one room a group of school children are working on their creative writing in the next room. It's a great environment for creative work.
After living in the city, we are all quite happy to have so much open space all around us. This afternoon we spent our lunch break at Mashomack Preserve exploring the trails in the woods. Mashomack Preserve takes up almost one third of the island and is a protected area where no building projects are allowed.
Rachel C. Lucas
Below are some words from ensemble member Kristian Sorensen about his thoughts on Shelter Island.
“Where is home to you? Is it a house, a town, a city, an island, a feeling, a person? Does the word “home” bring you back in time or into the present moment? At this moment in my life as a 20-something artist, home is always changing: it’s an apartment in Brooklyn, a bunk bed in Ashfield, it’s the necessary ritual of coffee in the morning, a song, a beer, a friend, a studio floor.
I grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and moved to the East coast as soon as I graduated high school. I loved growing up there. The community of people, however, was splintered. There were pockets of support, but they were usually segregated by interest, race, class (with the exception, I think, of a widely attended Zumba class at the recreation center). There was no real sense of one solid community of people holding each other up.
And does that sort of community exist anywhere, based strictly on geography? I certainly do not know, but I know that the residents of Shelter Island are proud of their town. There is a buzz of communal support on this Island and a desire to protect it. The library seems to be booked around the clock with programs for the young and the old: Scrabble, Mah-Jong, creative writing for kids, poetry groups, book clubs, movie nights, thespians. The nature conservancy director was more than excited to point out and name colorful birds to us. I’ve walked by people chatting and catching up in front of the market, seemingly in no hurry.
Entering into someone else’s home, whether it is someone new or, especially, somebody you’ve known for a long time, offers us so much information on the person who lives there. It’s a sensitive and tricky thing. Where are our similarities and differences? What do I understand and what do I have to accept that I am in no position to understand? I am extremely grateful to the residents of Shelter Island for opening up their homes to us through memories and stories as well as through the space of the library and The Historical Society’s barn. The Island and the stories of its inhabitants are fascinating and beautiful. We’ve heard about falling in love, about exploring “primordial” swamps as a child, about the fear and the friction of gentrification here, about the threat of climate change on the island’s beautiful beaches and coastal habitats, and about isolation and the need for connection. We are swimming in stories and in voices.
I am sure that these stories span much further than Shelter Island and they remind me of the universal appeal of turning our human experiences inside out and showing them to each other. We are all interconnected, even if we are geographically isolated from each other. Storytelling is an attempt to close the gaps while celebrating the differences. It is a chance to air our doubts and our fears, to celebrate where we’ve been, and to ask where we’re going. We try to reach each other. It’s a crossing, in a way, from one shore to another.”