Top Moments from No Safety Net 3.0
Five unique ticketed experiences. Contextual events connecting the University of Michigan Campus. Activities for families and schools. And a powerful free digital presentation.
More than 5,000 audience members of all ages participated in UMS’s No Safety Net 3.0 Festival, centered around critical topics in today’s world — including the environment and climate change, capitalism, forced migration, and unspoken private lives.
Enjoy a look back on our favorite moments:
The Plastic Bag Store Grand Opening
The Plastic Bag Store opened to tremendous success, quickly selling out more than 40 public performances. Extensive local and national media coverage of the show included artist interviews and videos produced by the University of Michigan, The Associated Press, USA Today, and The Weather Channel…just to name a few!
In the week of its grand opening, creator Robin Frohardt joined the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series at the Michigan Theater. The presentation was also streamed online and is available to watch on YouTube.
All attendees to The Plastic Bag Store had access to a digital guide, complete with behind-the-scenes features, program notes, and more resources about the effects of single-use plastics.
More than 20 full-length showings of The Plastic Bag Store were made available to University of Michigan class groups and local K-12 schools. We also invited students and teachers to share their post-show experiences with us online.
“I love how much was put into this exhibit and I also appreciate how they got their point of the entire thing while making it entertaining and enjoyable.”
Free Family Days
UMS welcomed 500 guests across two specially designed Plastic Bag Store family days in partnership with the University of Michigan Museum of Art. Young “shoppers” (ages 3+) could explore products and participate in a guided, hands-on art-making activity with local artist Sajeev Visweswaran.
Immediately following their appearance at New York City’s Under the Radar Festival, Belgian theater collective Ontroerend Goed presented two public shows and one school day performance of their palindromic Are we not drawn onward to new erA. The striking and inventive work, which gets filmed live and then replayed “backwards” for the audience, questions whether we can undo the damage we’ve inflicted on the earth.
The company also presented a workshop at the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance, showing students their process of performing in reverse.
UMS offered 32 performances of Tania El Khoury’s multi-sensory Cultural Exchange Rate in the Stamps Gallery. Audiences were given a set of keys and invited to unlock safety deposit boxes that held pieces of El Khoury’s family history. The work examines the never-ending story of migration through oral histories, family archives, and reconstructed memories.
During the run, Tania El Khoury joined the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series at the Michigan Theater, exploring the work as a case study in audience interactivity and the political potential of live art. The presentation was also streamed online and is available to watch on YouTube.
A Powerful Journey
No Safety Net 3.0 included another powerful work of storytelling that crossed borders and continents, in our digital presentation of salt:dispersed by UK-based performance artist Selina Thompson. Her award-winning dramatic monologue follows a journey she made by cargo ship to retrace the triangular route of the transatlantic slave trade.
Audience members graciously shared how the experience of viewing salt:dispersed resonated with them:
“Breathe deeply and step into this sacred space. You will have your heart cracked open.”
“Very revealing. Priceless and thought-provoking. Thank you.”
“A beautiful, heartfelt and healing journey.”
“Excellent performance. Excellent storytelling. I felt as if I was in the story.”
President Ono and Guests Visit The Plastic Bag Store
University of Michigan president Santa Ono, Ann Arbor mayor Christopher Taylor, and other special guests attended The Plastic Bag Store alongside UMS’s leadership and board of directors, and had the opportunity to meet and interact with creator Robin Frohardt.
What a joy to watch a performance of @UMSpresents Plastic Bag Store Project. This custom-built public art installation and immersive film experience uses humor, craft, and a critical lens to shine a light on the enduring effects of our single-use plastics on our environment pic.twitter.com/JBPzVGhk3j
— Santa Ono (@SantaJOno) January 29, 2023
In support of The Plastic Bag Store, the U-M Museum of Art, U-M Arts Initiative, the Graham Sustainability Institute, and UMS joined forces to offer “Talking Trash” — a livestreamed panel discussion exploring various ways to reduce our reliance on single-use plastics.
Unleashing Inside Voices
In advance of their performances of Our Carnal Hearts, theater maker Rachel Mars and singer/arranger Louise Mothersole led students from the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s ‘Heightened Language’ class in a traveling project called “Sing it! Spirit of Envy.”
Students submitted their “envies,” which Mothersole crafted into a witty, disruptive, 5-minute choral work they all performed together in the lobby at the U-M Ross School of Business. The performance was filmed and will be shared soon!
The Art of Letter Writing
Sold-out showings of Rachel Mars’s Your Sexts Are Shit: Older Better Letters sent audiences howling in the final weekend of No Safety Net performances! The show juxtaposed raunchy, erotic, expertly crafted communications from historic figures — including James Joyce, Mozart, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Georgia O’Keefe — with vapid, grammarless, crass text messages of the modern dating app era.
Mars visited with University of Michigan’s undergraduate ‘Engaging Performance’ class in the weeks before and after the show, to share her creative process and hear their performance reactions.
Student Closing Party
The University Musical Society’s Student Committee was joined by nearly 50 U-M students to celebrate the success of the festival, with special performances from Cece June and the Calista Quartet at Now Studios. Overall, students accounted for more than 25% of all No Safety Net audience members!
Thank you to our supporters!
No Safety Net 3.0 was presented in partnership with the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.
Thank you to the many supporters who made No Safety Net 3.0 a memorable festival for all!
Rachel Bendit and Mark Bernstein
U-M Arts Initiative
Max Wicha and Sheila Crowley
An anonymous donor supporting programming about environmental sustainability
U-M College of Literature, Science & the Arts
University of Michigan Credit Union Arts Adventures program
Destination Ann Arbor
Ilene H. Forsyth Theater Endowment Fund
THE PLASTIC BAG STORE IS CO-PRESENTED WITH
University of Michigan Museum of Art
U-M Graham Sustainability Institute
WEMU 89.1 FM
Michigan Radio 91.7 FM
Ann Arbor’s 107one
Dear Most Valued Customers…
Dear Most Valued Customers:
It’s almost impossible for me to try to explain what it is you are about to experience and the journey it took to get here. I started working on The Plastic Bag Store in 2015 after watching someone bag and double bag all my groceries that were already bags inside of bags inside of boxes. I wanted to highlight the absurd amount of packaging we are using and throwing away by making something even more absurd: a grocery store that only sold packaging.
Over time the project evolved into an elaborate live immersive puppet play with transforming sets and hidden rooms. For several years, my amazing team and I slowly pieced together this epic beast of a project. Sometimes that meant working with the support of prestigious residencies at architectural firms and fellowships at Universities. But more often it meant grueling rehearsals, endless schlepping and hours spent sifting through NYC garbage.
With all the pieces finally in place and a venue to die for, The Plastic Bag Store was set to open in the heart of Times Square on March 18, 2020…ya know… the day the whole world shut down? We did one amazing dress rehearsal and locked the doors and walked away.
I think part of me wanted to give up after that. Thankfully, with the persistence of vision of the team at Pomegranate Arts and the generous support of CAP UCLA, we were able to create a filmed version of the project. I was relieved that there would be a record of what we created (we didn’t film that last rehearsal), but I never imagined how beautiful the film would turn out, and how perfectly it would capture the story as I see it in my head.
We then found a way to integrate the film into the installation for a truly unique live experience which we opened in Times Square, and have since taken to Australia, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Austin! I couldn’t be more excited to share it now with the lovely people of Ann Arbor.
Robin Frohardt: The Magic of the Mundane
The Plastic Bag Store creator Robin Frohardt joined U-M’s Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series on January 12, 2023.
UMS Connect: Rachel Mars
Welcome to UMS Connect, a new digital series that invites audiences to dive deeper into the season’s performances in casual conversations with artists and creators.
In this Episode
Programming Manager Mary Roeder speaks with writer and performer Rachel Mars, in advance of her two shows coming to UMS’s No Safety Net 3.0 Festival:
Our Carnal Hearts
Feb 1 – 4, 2023 // Arthur Miller Theatre
Your Sexts Are Shit: Older Better Letters
Feb 4 – 5, 2023 // Arthur Miller Theatre
Growing a Long-Lasting Tomato 🍅
Robin Frohardt shares how a tomato is “grown” for The Plastic Bag Store, coming to Ann Arbor January 17 – February 5, 2023.