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Village Artists Turn Their Experience of Hurricane Sandy Into a Play

By Dana Varinsky | October 25, 2013 8:14am

WEST VILLAGE — A new play written and directed by Westbeth Artists' Housing residents commemorates the community’s experience during Hurricane Sandy, when flooding destroyed the work, equipment and materials of more than 70 artists.

The play, titled “Lost and Found: Scenes from After the Flood,” debuted Thursday night and will run through the weekend. It follows a young man as he searches for the creator of an unclaimed piece of damaged artwork, leading the audience through four locations in the Westbeth building at 55 Bethune St. The plot reflects a reality Westbeth residents faced a year ago, when many artists lost their instruments, sculptures, paintings and sketches because of Hurricane Sandy.

“I was very much struck during the storm and the aftermath by the sense of loss that people went through, and by the loss of balance,” said Paul Binnerts, 74, who wrote the play in January. 

After the storm, more than 8 feet of water sat in the basement studios of the Westbeth Artists' Housing for two weeks. In addition to ruining artwork and supplies, the flood also caused lasting damage to the building—one set of elevators was out of service until last week.

“I tried to write about that existential feeling and notion of loss and how to deal with it, and that in relationship to what art is about and why you do it,” Binnerts said.

Two of the play’s five actors are also Westbeth residents. But although play is inspired by the artists’ experiences, Nancy Gabor, who is the show’s director and Binnerts’ wife, said the themes are universal. The play never mentions Sandy by name, referring to it only as “the storm,” which Gabor, 72, said could represent any kind of adversity. 

“It’s a metaphor for all of us, about loss and love and recovery, and asking questions about that,” she said, adding that the story is also told with humor.

The play's audience follows the main character through the Westbeth gallery and community room, as well as an apartment and the building's basement, where black lines of spray paint on the walls still show the height of the floodwaters.

Beginning Saturday, audience members can also view a gallery of drawings and sculptures that were damaged by the storm and assembled to accompany the show.

The play runs through Sunday afternoon this weekend, with three more performances Nov. 7, 8 and 9. Fifty tickets are available for each show, and can be purchased for $18 at the door or through the Westbeth website.