STONINGTON — A giant metal porcupine, sitting in the middle of the quarry, melded with its surroundings. Steel drums hummed delicately in the background. A heron gracefully glided in, signaling the start of an innovative, site-specific theatrical dance performance.
It took a few minutes for Monday night’s audience to realize that “Q2: Habitat” had started in the huge granite pit overlooking Webb Cove. “Habitat” is directed by Alison Chase and Mia Kanazawa and produced by Opera House Arts at the Stonington Opera House. The show runs through Saturday with performances at 5 p.m. daily. Chase, a founding member of the dance troupe Pilobolus, and Kanazawa, a widely known puppet artist, have been stitching the performance together for almost two years with the help of lots of people. The show follows the success of a previous quarry production. “Quarryography” was presented in its final form in the summer of 2007 and a preliminary version of “Habitat” was staged last August. Last night, the audience staked out spots with picnic blankets and folding chairs along the rim of Settlement Quarry to see all the elements of “Habitat” come together.
“I bought my ticket a month ago online [from Washington D.C.],” audience member Carolyn Peirce said. “I’d been anticipating [the show] big time.”
Puppets, professional dancers, community members and musicians came together to tell the tale of change in the quarry, change that could translate from theater to real life.
The show starts subtly, setting the stage of the past with prehistoric creatures. A trio of smaller ragged porcupines and a bouncing gaggle of gulls ruled the quarry along with the porcupine Qwilla and the heron until they were interrupted by a busybody real estate agent sticking a maroon Shepard’s Select Properties sign in the middle of the pit. Then, a giant yellow excavator barreled onto the scene, followed by the humans beginning to explore the spot. A U-Haul truck blaring noise from the radio blasted its way center stage, cutting right through the serenity of the natural setting. Bits of the performance straddled the line between surrealism and reality.
“It’s what we’re all working for and striving for in this day and age in our world that’s so full of noise,” Stonington resident and audience member Jane Hildreth said. “They’re trying to get to calmer quieter more gentle way of living expressed through music and dance.”
Images and costumes were hyperbolic and didn’t necessarily take place in a specific time. Dancers donned hats with big beady eyes and yellow beaks to transform themselves into gulls. Community members clad in jewel-colored getups punctuated the stage trying to find their place in the world that was created in “Habitat.”
“With the moving out of the natural creatures, the porcupine, the great blue heron and the birds and then bringing in the people and the excavation and the real estate they’re losing the habitat,” Peirce said. “The question is, can they coexist?”
The show, which is about the conflict that lies in coexistence, is done with humor and flair.