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Salt Spices Up Theater Show

The designers of a recent Dutch theater production of Richard Wagner's The Flying Dutchman found a novel use for 20,000 kilos of Akzo Nobel salt.

Sceneography student Pepijn Rozing had a dilemma. He was designing a theater production based on Richard Wagner’s opera The Flying Dutchman and wanted to symbolize the sea in an unconventional but eye-catching way.

Armed with very little budget, after consulting fellow student Eddy van der Laan, he hit upon the idea of an evaporated sea, which would mean covering the performance area in salt. Lots of salt.

But where was the Dutch student going to get his hands on the thousands of kilos he’d need?

One phone call to Akzo Nobel later, the 24-year-old—who is in his final year of studies in Utrecht, the Netherlands—had managed to secure delivery of a 20,000 kilo contribution, courtesy of Akzo Nobel Salt’s site in Hengelo.

“The salt found in the ground around Hengelo used to be part of an inland sea around 200 million years ago,” explained Heleen van de Lustgraaf, communication manager for Akzo Nobel Salt. “We thought it would be a great idea to bring this “sea” to the students’ imaginative production of The Flying Dutchman.

So the salt was delivered in 25kg sacks to the Amsterdam venue (a converted factory), where ten volunteers spent more than six hours emptying the contents onto the large sloping stage, creating a layer six centimeters deep.

“I thought it would have ended up a bit deeper, but I think it works very well,” said Pepijn, who designed the show with Van der Laan. “We just wanted to do something a bit different in terms of representing the sea and we haven’t had any technical problems with using the salt.

“In fact, the humidity in the auditorium helps to add a salty taste to the air, so it should create quite an authentic seafaring atmosphere.”

Directed by Rober Nemack—another student who is in his final year at Amsterdam Theater School—the show was based on the Wagner opera about a Dutch seaman who is cursed to spend eternity on the waves, except for one day every seven years, when he’s allowed on land in an effort to find a woman who will give him a home.

It was staged at the Transformatorhuis from October 9 to 12 and once the run was over, Akzo Nobel supplier Mesinga Cleaning Service agreed to collect the 20,000 kilo donation, which will be disposed of in a regulated way at Akzo Nobel’s Delfzijl site.

(Released: October 13, 2004)

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