This article was published in High Country Press. It is the only time I’ve done a quote lead and I’m very sorry about it, but I’m leaving all these old stories as-is for the sake of accuracy.

“We sat horrified as the event unfolded before our eyes…our hearts sank,” Alistair Burke said, describing his reaction to media coverage of last April’s Gulf oil spill.

“Witnessing the event, seeing all this oil making its way toward the shores and the body count of animals rising…it was traumatic,” he continued.Burke is the producer of “The Shining Seas: A Prayer to the Oceans in Puppets, Poems and Song,” a community theatrical gathering that will attempt to raise money and awareness for animals harmed by the spill.

The event will take place Friday, November 12, at 7:00 p.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Boone. Tickets will be sold at the door for a suggested donation of $7 per person.

For Burke and his wife, Kathy Ford, the choice to respond to the catastrophe through art was a natural one.

“This is the way we, as artists, can have an impact in the world,” Burke said.

Burke and Ford have been responding to the world as artists for some time now. Their theater company, Star of the Sea Studios, produced several shows in the New York area before the pair moved to Boone three years ago, and Burke sells his photography at the Watauga Farmer’s Market.

Ford, who created elaborate puppets and costumes for the show Friday, has been making puppets for more than 30 years. She also makes jewelry, which she sells at the farmer’s market.

“The Shining Seas” is the first of Burke and Ford’s shows to serve as a fundraiser, however, and will involve a large number of Watauga County residents. There are approximately 39 people in the show and another 40 helping behind the scenes, Burke said. Some are professionals, and some have never set foot on a stage.

“We call it community theater because it’s really a combination of professionals and first-timers,” Burke said. “That’s part of what we like to do, sort of mix that up and give folks that haven’t had a chance to do it before an opportunity. But it’s also a venue for more seasoned professionals.”

Burke explained that the show is not as political as one might expect—rather, it’s a celebration of the oceans themselves.

“The show is not a boo-hoo kind of fest,” he said. “Our take is that people are more moved to action on a celebratory note…being reminded of the beauty of the world.”

Proceeds from the show will benefit the National Wildlife Federation, an organization that has focused on the search and rescue of animals affected by the spill. Burke said the NWF was chosen because “they have an excellent track record of doing what they say and saying what they do…the money that is donated is really focused on the programs that they run.”

In addition to funds, Burke hopes to raise ecological awareness and an appreciation of the planet we live on.

“It’s our love and stewardship for our oceans and this planet that [will] determine how much time we have to spend on it,” he said.

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