History Comes Alive At Stony Creek Quarry

Chris Randall PhotoWhen the workers swing at the granite walls, they send out echoes from the past. The sounds remind us of 150 years of lives lived and rock removed.

Only now, they are not alone. The modern men work with lights, dancers, directors, and an audience.

Chris Randall PhotoThey are actors and the Stony Creek Quarry is their stage.

The quarry became the setting for a magical production,“TERRA TRACTUS The Earth Moves,” undertaken by Projects 2k, a non-profit group that creates multimedia shows combining educational aspects of arts and science. The performance ran eight nights over the last two weeks in June.

“We want people to take a step back, engage with the environment and surroundings in a different way, in a new way and just make them think, make them think critically,” Gioia Connell, co-producer and managing director of the show, told the Eagle in an interview. 

Projects 2k used the sheer size of the quarry to inspire the audience, creating a sense of scale not possible in a standard theater production. Audience members sat in the middle of the quarry, which allowed them to experience the performance from many different angles. 

“The event was a great success. Every night, 150 to 400 people filed into the Quarry, with many nights selling out,” Connell told the Eagle. 

In Honor of Joy Wulke

In addition to celebrating the 20th anniversary of Projects 2k, the show honored Joy Wulke, the founder of Projects 2k, who passed away in February.

Chris Randall Photo“Our main message is always a perspective-altering one,” said Connell, Wulke’s daughter. 

Wulke once wrote: “The Stony Creek Quarry is the ideal setting to create productions full of wonder, to inspire all who see them to embrace the beauty and fragility of our planet through understanding and participation.”

Focus of Show

The show focused on the evolution of Earth over the past 600 million years, paying particular attention to the continental drift that continues to occur today. In addition, in parts, the performance tapped into the specific history of the quarry, helping to ground the story in a setting more relatable to the largely local audience.

Chris Randall PhotoThe production team used a combination of lights, poetry, projections, dancers, climbers and actors to convey their message. Over the course of the show, moving images of Pangea, various animals, fire and more were projected onto the quarry wall.

Chris Randall PhotoThe dancers “helped to tie the show together by creating a sense of movement and a sense of place and a sense of scale with people and the environment,” according to Connell. The dancers are part of the dance program at the Educational Center of Arts in New Haven. 

Chris Randall PhotoThe climbing crew also played a prominent role in the show. Throughout, members of the team scaled the quarry walls and traveled across the length of the quarry suspended by wire.

Other parts of the show focused on the diversification of life on Earth and the movement from life underwater to life on land.

The show concluded with a nod to the future, showing a projection of a city skyline and allowing audience members to contemplate what comes next.

“The Stony Creek granite odyssey took hundreds of millions of years and in the future it will continue to grow,” Connell said. “Our continents are moving towards the next super-continent expected in the next 250 million years.” The new continent will be circular with one shared interior ocean, according to Connell.

In the program, Projects 2k posed the question: “Will, we, as humankind be here to see it? Will there be a rebirth or creation of a new species?”

Chris Randall PhotoIt is a question Projects 2k has posed ever since it first started getting to know the space in 1995, with its show “Visualization of Time.”

History Of The Quarry

“The quarry was a main point of inspiration,” Connell said. “It lies on a very active geological ancient fault line. In fact, Stony Creek granite is igneous rock, it’s made from lava. From the crashing together of the African and North American continents and the ripping apart. …That’s what creates the quarry and that’s what has created this 150-year-old industry in this 600-million-year-old process.”

Anthony “Unk” DaRos, former Branford first selectman and a fourth generation quarry worker, has witnessed the technological advancements that have occurred in the quarry industry. In the 21st century, it is possible to cut as much stone in a month as workers used to be able to cut in three years. In addition, the workforce has decreased significantly, from 400 workers at its peak to four workers currently.

The pink granite produced at the quarry has been used all over the country in various monuments, such as in the base of the Statue of Liberty and for the West Point monument. 

By some estimates, the quarry will remain in use for 150 to 200 more years.

Food and Art

At each showing, people were invited to arrive early at the quarry to take advantage of onsite food trucks and to get to know the area. The food trucks worked on a rotating schedule and featured cuisine such as the Caseus Cheese Truck, The Ice Cream Guy and High Tide Gourmet.

In addition, members of Projects 2k set up a tent exhibiting Wulke’s art and the work of other local artists. 

DaRos also displayed pictures of the quarry from over the years.

Before the show, volunteer tour guides led attendees to their seats, providing some historical context about the quarry along the way.

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