On the evening of Sunday, March 26, environmentalist-minded community members gathered at The Stage at KDHX for "The Invasive Species Follies: Bush Honeysuckle, Mosquitos, Us," an educational variety show with a you-can-do spin. Hosted by Jean Ponzi of KDHX's Earthorms podcast, the show featured live music, drama, and education, all centered on two of St. Louis's biggest invasive species: the bush honeysuckle and the mosquito.
Despite the subject matter, the mood during The Invasive Species Follies multifarious acts was anything but doom and gloom. There was laughter abound during the "Honeysuckle Cabaret," a marionette show created by Christine Torlina and Gary Schimmelpfenig in which Ponzi and Dale Dufer, her husband and Follies co-producer, play characters who fight evil honeysuckle bushes and encounter levitating tables. The audience was charmed with the "Honeysuckle Table Fable" starring Ruby and Eli Ackerman, a fantastical skit in which girl and the spirit of bush honeysuckle learn to coexist.
The evening show also featured a (sort of) 'adult-oriented' act, in which 'Sarah the Honeysuckle Stripper' (Sarah Bundy) lasciviously stripped the bark off of a honeysuckle bough in a dress handmade entirely out -- you guessed it -- honeysuckle fibers and wood. The show's lighthearted atmosphere was complemented by music from St. Louis's own Augusta Bottoms Consort, whose setlist included "Time to Kill the Rooster" off 2000's Bottomland and some Follies-exclusive songs including Gloria Attoun's true-experience "Diggin' Up That Honeysuckle."
Sunday evening's show also included some serious moments for learning and reflection. Ponzi provided information about bush honeysuckle and mosquitos (specifically, the three types of mosquito that transmit diseases to humans), as well as things people can do in their lives to counter these pesky species. Dale Dufer of Think About Tables gave a short demonstration on how to turn honeysuckle into beautiful, organic-looking tables, thereby giving uprooted plants a second life. The show also featured Jenn DeRose of the Green Dining Alliance, who gave a presentation on the organization's mission of promoting sustainable practices within local restaurants.
The show closed on an optimistic note with a cover of Bing Crosby's "Accentuate the Positive," sung by Ponzi and backed by the Augusta Bottoms Consort. The song encapsulated the forward-looking essence of the show. "We want the audience to come away with a positive feeling and motivation to do something," Ponzi said in a phone interview the day before, acknowledging that it's common for environmentalists to fall into the doomsday mentality. "Sometimes, it's not all that easy to make this stuff funny," Ponzi said. "But it's a worthwhile effort."
Keep watch for the next Follies and in the meantime subscribe to the Earthworms podcasts including related episodes such as "Fight the Bite," "Beyond the War on Invasive Species," "Bush Honeysuckle: Sweep It!"