June 2, 2021

Outdoor Immersive Experience at Mercer Community College

TAKING IT OUTDOORS: Mercer County Community College alumna Natalie Bogach of East Windsor is part of the cast for the performances of “The Romantics” scheduled for June 5-6 on the West Windsor campus. Members of MCCC’s theatre and dance programs will present the production.

The Romantics, a devised performative collage outdoor performance, will be performed at Mercer County Community College June 5-6. The production is the brainchild of MCCC Theatre and Dance Company Coordinator Jody Gazenbeek-Person.

As audience members meander through and around the campus, they will come upon dance, poetry, and theatrical scenes. Audience size is limited to 50 for each of the performances, which are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, June 5 and 6 at 2 and 6 p.m. The rain dates are June 12-13 at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. A special performance for those with mobility concerns is planned for 4 p.m. Friday, June 5 (rain date June 11). The audience members can remain seated the entire time.

“The idea for this production hit me due to the pandemic,” Gazenbeek-Person said. “This has been a challenging time for everyone. The one beautiful thing to come out of these awful times was people’s return to nature — taking hikes, houseplant collecting, gardening, joining bird-watching groups. It struck me to move with the positive parts of our time. A lot of people haven’t heard of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing). People are much more inspired to nature at the moment, and I thought ‘why not take our community in Mercer County deeper?’”

“In between the performance moments we’re actually doing a horticultural walk and will teach the audience the principals of Japanese forest bathing — nature is the energizing force. When you breathe those things in, you build your immunity — Japanese scientists have proven that forest bathing improves short-term memory, reduces stress, increases creativity and has many other health benefits.”

The Romantics cast includes many Mercer County residents, with East Windsor, Ewing, Lawrence, Princeton, Robbinsville, and Trenton represented.

“This is a unique event,” Gazenbeek-Person said. “All the various art forms tend to do one of two things: make people more empathetic or change their thinking. We are going to do both of those things, we are actually going to be affecting people’s health in a positive way, they’re going to walk away feeling a little healthier, and they’re likely to be more sympathetic to others.”

Studies have shown that forest bathing increases prosocial aspirations and generosity. “People who do forest bathing are more likely to be helpful in their communities,” Gazenbeek-Person said. He hopes that as participants are “bathed in a forest atmosphere,” they will have an opportunity to commune with nature and relax after the challenges of the past year.

The performance is two hours with a 10-minute intermission. Audience members can wear masks if it makes them comfortable, and it is asked that social distancing be maintained. The event will cross many terrains: walking on grass, gravel, and concrete; and up and down small hills.

Tickets, which can only be purchased online, are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and students. Attendees will be permitted to bring a lawn chair or a walker to sit during the performances. For further details and tickets visit KelseyTheatre.org.