Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of An Inconvenient Poop at The White Box at 440 Studios by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of An Inconvenient Poop at The White Box at 440 Studios was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

An Inconvenient Poop
Created & Performed by Shawn Shafner
Directed by Annie G. Levy
The White Box at 440 Studios
440 Lafayette Street, 3rd Floor
New York, New York 10003
Reviewed 8/23/15 

Shawn "The Puru" Shafner founded The People's Own Organic Power Project (The POOP Project) in 2010 to catalyze conversation about sustainable sanitation. It is his belief that "modern manners, language, architecture, and even toilets are all designed to make poop more or less disappear." The Puru unearths the origins of our dis-ease, and exposes how current practices threaten our health and the environment. Everybody poops! Shafner believes we must fully acknowledge and accept this basic human fact. Once we do, we may then be able to start to address a global crisis that is killing 2,000 people every day. Talking about poop is only the first step. If we can have a frank discussion about the issue, we may have a chance to wean ourselves off our currently unsustainable, water-based sewage system, and at the very least, we may be able to avoid the same mistakes and errors when providing safe and sustainable sanitation to the remaining 40% of the world still living without safe toilets. This world premiere of An Inconvenient Poop at the 19th Annual New York International Fringe Festival was produced with support from the World Toilet Organization, SquattyPotty, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation's ROI Community. Other related works of Shawn "The Puru" Shafner include Flush: The Documentary (www.GoFlushYourself.com), and the musical Eat $h*t: How Our Waste Can Save The World, which had performances at the Edinburgh Fringe, in Dubai, Jerusalem and at the United Nations for World Toilet Day. 

An Inconvenient Poop opens with Shawn Shafner in the character of Dr. Oscar von Shtein, a Professor of Comparative Literature with an emphasis on French 20th Century Home Morality, specializing in characterizations of heating structures, about to give a FREDx Talk on the Proustian Ethics of Fireplace Building. He is interrupted by his computer, The Puru (a Guru on the topic of Poop), who takes over his slides, locks him in the room, and forces him to give a talk on the cultural history of poop and our relationship with it. Every time Dr. Shtein picks up a card to aid him in giving the speech, his voice changes and by the end of the show, he, and the audience, are offered the opportunity to become Purus and to wear an "I'm a Pooper" button. An Inconvenient Poop is entertaining and informative. Shawn Shafner is an attractive and charismatic actor, who has an important message to relay. In my opinion, he should have just dove headfirst into a discussion regarding "this dark underside of American society" that, in polite company and civilized society, is usually not "seen, heard, smelled or talked about." He'd like you to join the movement and to add your voice to raise awareness about how billions of people suffer sickness, poverty, and death because they still lack access to proper sanitation.

All of Christian tradition involves separating us from our animal nature. Even though humans are mammals, we like to think we are special; created by God in his own image with a soul and the possibility of eternal salvation. The Bible, The Koran, and other Holy Books set forth moral guidance threatening us with punishment if we kill, steal, commit adultery or engage in other acts detrimental to our living in an organized and orderly society. Even non-believers like to think we have evolved beyond "screwing like rabbits" and "shitting in the woods." As Sigmund Freud said, "civilized men today are repulsed by anything that reminds us of our animal origins." It wasn't always like that. There were times when we weren't in "fecal denial" and ashamed of our "gross domestic product." Roman men used to sit in communal toilets and "shoot the shit" for hours but by the time of Queen Victoria, who favored "beauty, cleanliness, and order," anything relating to bodily functions (defecation, urination, masturbation, and sexual intercourse) were to be hidden and not discussed in polite company. As Ms. Manners said in her 1979 book on etiquette, "neither the noise maker nor the noise recipient" should comment on what might have been heard or smelled. Even Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus, the Dutch Catholic priest, teacher, and theologian, recommends a fake cough to cover up unwanted "accidents" when all else fails. Nowadays, with urinal dividers and men using toilet bowls to pee in standing up, the pendulum is continuing in the direction of "increased modesty." Each person would like to think their "crowned jewels" are somehow unique and special.

In everyday language, euphemisms abound because we are embarrassed and ashamed to discuss the topic in an honest and open manner. We go to the "bathroom" and the "restroom" even though we don't really intend to bathe or rest there. When we speak of urination, we might say we need to "see a man about a dog," "siphon the python," or "hose down the deck." If we need to defecate, we might say we need to "drop a load," "sink the Bismark," or "drop the kids off at the pool." We have Charmin toilet paper commercials with bears rubbing the soft toilet paper next to their cheeks. The Puru reminds us that toilet paper is not meant for those cheeks and that the only bears using toilet paper live in Chelsea! If we were being more accurate, perhaps there should be a brand of toilet paper called "Shit Be Gone."

Shawn "The Puru" Shafner wants you to talk about shit without shame! Poop has the potential to be "trash or treasure," "shit or the shit." It is part of the Circle of Life and with 26.7% of our drinking water going down the drain in our toilets while many parts of our country are facing severe water shortages, this is not a problem that can be solved easily or that is going away anytime soon. The Puru invites you to join the poop revolution and to "Fart with Fury! Pee with Passion! and Poop with Pride!." On a day-to-day basis, the Puru encourages you to not flush every time you pee (if it's yellow, let it mellow), to use a portable bidet instead of toilet paper, and to not clean your dishes when it rains because New York City has a sewerage overflow system that when stressed, empties out the untreated sewerage directly into our rivers.

An Inconvenient Poop runs 70 minutes and introduces you to topics and issues you may not have ever thought about before. It is no laughing matter! But neither is there an easy solution to the sanitation and fresh water problems the world faces and will continue to face in the future. Shawn Shafner has added his voice to those discussing this important issue and, for that, he deserves kudos. He has also created an informative show complete with slides and musical numbers. In fact, Dr. Oscar von Shtein transforms from The Professor to The Puru right before your eyes! Shawn Shafner hopes his efforts will make a difference. What else can anyone on this planet do but pick a worthy cause and then work to directly solve it or raise awareness regarding it? The Puru encourages you to become part of the solution before "the shit hits the fan." For more information, visit www.thePOOPproject.org

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