When Jennifer May’s sink broke earlier this year, the Jersey City resident together with her husband, Steve Gelsi, and their three children learned to get by using less water.
"This triggered something," said May. After the sink was fixed, she asked herself, "Why do we have to use so much water?" And this, she said, became a "springboard" to other changes.
Now, the co-author of the musical "Reversadoodle The Eco Show" a 35-minute, one-act play that promotes recycling and conservation boasts a kitchen free of paper towels and paper napkins. "We recycle practically everything," she said, pointing out that she has seen a tremendous reduction in what goes into her trashcan.
‘Reversadoodle’ writers Jennifer May and Steve Gelsi stand in front of a 6-foot model of the earth, which May built out of green and blue trash found in Jersey City.
May noted that all scenery for the show, which played twice in late October at the old firehouse in Jersey City, was made with recycled materials. In addition, a "green kitchen" was built on stage so that audience members could see what might be done in their own homes. "The only thing we had to buy was paint," she said, adding that she enlisted friends to help with many of the larger jobs, including costume design.
May, who has a master’s degree in children’s literature, described the show as a collaborative piece, written together with her husband, a longtime singer/songwriter. The plot revolves around the efforts of two young children searching for a way to clean up the trash in their neighborhood.
May explained that the title of the piece is the name of the charm used by a wizard to try to get rid of the trash and pollution. Unfortunately, she added, it doesn’t work. "The last song in the musical is ‘You Can Reversadoodle,’" said May. "The children learn that they and other people are the magic. We must all do our share to help reduce the trash."
Making the venture even more of a family affair, the couple’s 7-year-old daughter, Maya Gelsi, was one of the actors. "She looked like a pro," said May. "She told me later she was ‘born to act.’"
While her 4-year-old twins took a less active role, May said, it was nevertheless "a family event," with many weekends devoted to rehearsals. In addition, she said, she recently received a letter from the one of the children’s preschool teachers informing her that her child had taken "a leadership role in reminding the other children to conserve water."
The play also made an impression on former vice president Al Gore, who sent the couple a letter thanking them for their efforts and praising their play. May explained that her sister works in Washington and brought the script to Gore’s attention.
While there is no immediate plan for another performance, "the script is being reviewed," said May, noting that she envisions launching the show as a fund-raiser for her synagogue, Temple Beth-El, which, she said, "is talking about starting an environmental awareness committee."
May said she doesn’t want to preach on the topic of environmental responsibility but simply wants people to "be a little more aware of their use of things in the world."
The performances at the old firehouse brought in about $700, said May, all of which was donated to three charitable organizations: the Newforest Institute, an educational, nonprofit organization dealing with sustainability issues; the New Jersey Audubon Society; and Friends of Van Vorst Park in Jersey City.
But the "biggest effect," said May, has been having numerous people change certain aspects of their lives. "In fact," she said, "some people have come up to me and said they no longer use paper towels, or that they’ve begun to compost."