The Garbologists

The Garbologists at Suzanne Roberts Theater

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Lindsay Joelle’s new play “The Garbologists” is trash… and just about as Philly as Philly can get.

Now that Philadelphia has finally learned the honest truth behind its sanitation from a local such as Terrill “Ya Fav Trashman” Haigler’s blogs and tweets, having a genuine theatrical enterprise open in the name of trash makes perfect sense. To that end (and after a smart special talkback from Haigler on Sunday, November 14), the local premiere of playwrights Lindsay Joelle’s The Garbologists, together with a city-wide campaign to support sanitation workers, is on, up and running courtesy the Philadelphia Theatre Company and the Suzanne Roberts Theater on Broad Street.

“The Garbologists is one of the theatrical experiences that this company has most looked forward to, as Joelle’s new play touches on so much of what Philadelphia is, and cares about,” said Paige Price, the Philadelphia Theatre Company’s Producing Artistic Director two months ago during a conversation about her stage’s return to live action after the 2020 through 2021 Covid slowdown.

The Garbologists
Actor Ngozi Anyanwu as Marlowe.

Opening on November 17 and running until December 5, what The Garbologists smartly, soundly focuses on is a relationship between workers at a city’s sanitation department – one a Black, Ivy League graduate and the other a White, blue-collar worker (a mansplainer, no less) having to walk each other through the minutiae of the job, and each’s personal quirks, qualms and foibles. What is discarded and what is found makes us who we are, and – and what pushes The Garbologists together for a tightly knitted, engaging dramedy. Plus, there is an education to be had. For instance: how do you spot a standard mattress upgrade from a casualty of a bed bug infestation? And what is “mongo”?

The Garbologists
Actor Steven Rishard as Danny.

“What’s important about The Garbologists is that it dramatizes the story of not only the essential workers we didn’t realize were so, well, essential to our lives and comfort, but also that it reveals the stories that our refuse tells about us,” said Price in a statement. “It’s more than ‘one man’s trash…’ It’s that we have become a throwaway society in too many ways. As countries gather to talk about our climate crisis, it’s hard not to look at the masses of garbage we create. It’s not the main theme of the play, but you can’t help but think about it.”

“The reason I’m so excited for this play is that it magnifies the human side of sanitation workers,” said Haigler, a one-time student of acting and dance at Freedom Theatre, and a graduate from Creative and Performing Arts High (CAPA) in 2007 as a dance major. “It makes you realize sanitation workers can be cool, too. The Philadelphia Theatre Company has done an absolutely wonderful job of displaying real life scenarios that sanitation workers deal with. My hope is that this play touches Philadelphia the way it touched me.”

The Garbologists

Haigler isn’t just a talking head here when it comes to The Garbologists. Along with reviving his hashtag #supportsantiationworkers from the Summer of 2020, there will be “bin stickers” strewn across Philly, intended to be a visual show of appreciation and support for Philly’s sanitation crews.

Images: Ashley Smith, Wide Eyed Studio

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