The cardboard ladies
Building a scene that’s about more than drinking
By Melissa Shaw-Smith
Dayna Christison, Rebecca Pry, and Ava Burgos are sitting on the floor of their Makers Lab at the Warwick Community Center, paintbrushes, scissors, and glue guns in hand. Using not much more than recycled cardboard and a ton of creativity, they’re making the latest set for the Doc Fry Music Sessions. A year ago, Christison, a visual designer and model, teamed up with Wickham Works! Makers’ group and several local music promoters, to revive the live band scene in the area. Having returned to her home base after college, she was delighted to find an outlet for her talents.
The current set will be a string of newspaper marionettes suspended over a stack of TV sets made from cardboard and air filters, lit up with slogans; a commentary on the importance of investigative journalism and freedom of the press.
The three women—who jokingly refer to themselves as the ladies—are all in their twenties. They start the evening with a shared meal. There’s a lot of laughter and chat mixed in with discussions on how to build sets from mostly repurposed material. “Having limitations is helpful,” says Christison. “There’s so much stuff being thrown out that can be used.” Regardless of budget, using recycled material is important to them. Old wooden pallets, chicken wire, bottle caps, and a small mountain of cardboard are in constant rotation.
While all have chosen to live and work in Warwick, they do say that having a social life that doesn’t involve sitting in bars, can be challenging. This gives them all the more incentive to come out and make art with a purpose, together. They are far from alone. Each show, young audience members screen print band posters, make pins, and frequently ask how they too can build sets.
It was at one of the Doc Fry shows that Pry, a freelance illustrator and graphic artist who had recently moved to town, met Christison. “I remember being in the crowd and you had that cool aluminum foil thing, and I thought that is so cool!,” recalls Pry. “How do you get involved in this? And Dayna turns around and says, ‘You just come.’”
Burgos, too, became part of the team by coming to the shows at the Community Center. A pastry chef and cook who has been gaining on-the-job experience since she was a 15-year-old homeschooler, Burgos found her tribe through the local music scene and high school drama club. “I loved going to local shows as a teenager,” she said. “I really wanted something that felt more communal and felt more like a bigger purpose” — and she found what she was looking for at the Doc Fry gigs.
Christinson struck on the idea of building each month’s set around a social justice theme. Suffering from post-election blues, and the threatened defunding of Planned Parenthood, she wanted to make a difference. “I don’t know anything else around here that can bring attention to social causes in a space. Since there are so many kids that come to these shows, I just wanted them to be more socially aware before they go to college.”
The ladies are hoping to take their installations and production skills on the road in the near future. Next up on their wish list — a vehicle to refurbish as a maker mobile.