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Open Alternative School Finds Humor in Sustainability with ‘The Magical Seaweed’

Writer Isaac Hernández explores the negative effects of plastic litter on the world's oceans

The Magical Seaweed: Mica’s Adventure in the Sea of Plastic, a play by Isaac Hernández and performed by students from Open Alternative School, will show at the La Cumbre Junior High Theatre, 2255 Modoc Road in Santa Barbara, at 6 p.m. March 16-17. Admission is $5.

The play, inspired in part by a field trip taught by Art From Scrap Green Schools environmental educators, focuses greatly on the negative impacts that plastic litter is having upon the world’s oceans, with a humorous view.

Hernández, a parent at OAS, as well as photographer, writer and painter, says The Magical Seaweed is a play for adults and children alike.

“The kids add a great dose of humor to a very serious issue,” Hernández said. “In the play, we try to laugh at the problems while providing sustainability solutions.”

Students at OAS worked with Hernández to invent their characters and to create the relevant story, learning by playing. The students designed and built their costumes and sets using plastic litter and trash they collected from their homes. Other materials were donated by Art From Scrap, environmental partner for this production.

“I was inspired to write a play about the negative impacts that plastic has on the ocean after going on the Watershed Resource Center field trip. I saw that many of the kids didn’t know about plastic in the ocean and that they seemed really interested. This motivated me to write the play,” Hernández said. “The Magical Seaweed takes the mission of Art From Scrap, which is educating about the environment and arts, and makes people think about how their actions affect ocean health.”

Hernández said he was also inspired by many of the environmental leaders he has photographed and interviewed for the EcoHeroes Project, including oceanologist Sylvia Earle, Andy Lipkis from TreePeople, Paul Stamets of Fungi Perfecti, artificial leaf inventor Daniel Nocera, and William McDonough, co-author of Cradle to Cradle. The children learn about sustainable solutions while having fun and making their voices heard.

“Many people have worked to make The Magical Seaweed,” Hernández said. “It wouldn’t be possible without the students and their Open Alternative Middle School teacher, David Archer; plus the many parents, grandparents, students and volunteers. In the same way, it will require the collaboration of many to find and implement solutions for a sustainable Planet Water. As Sylvia Earle told me, ‘The good news is that this is the best chance we’ve got. Never before did we know; and never again will we have such a great opportunity.’ This is part of the message of the play, that we can each contribute our grain of sand, while loving life.”

The evening will include a bake sale and raffle benefiting Art from Scrap and OAS, and a “Trash Art” gallery show of works created by the students.

The Magical Seaweed will make you laugh and move you,” Hernández said. “The power of theater has always been to communicate current events. We all learned a lot in the process, like the fact that 70 percent of the Earth’s oxygen is generated by the oceans.”

The Magical Seaweed is dedicated to two beloved Santa Barbara community members who were recently lost: OAS teacher and parent Carmen Alexander, and underwater filmmaker and Santa Barbara Middle School parent Mike deGruy. They both embodied a love for the outdoors, the environment, the arts and positive education. Alexander was a teacher in the class and contributed to the creation of The Magical Seaweed. Her son, Sasha, is a member of the cast.

— Nancy Black is a publicist for Open Alternative School.

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