Carson Play Comes to Hill Tonight

Posted May 8, 2007 at 5:26pm

Every time people learn more about environmentalist Rachel Carson through her one-woman play, playwright and actress Kaiulani Lee says people are inspired.

Today, Lee brings that play, “A Sense of Wonder,” to Capitol Hill to celebrate what would have been the native Marylander’s centennial birthday on May 27.

“I take this to people because Carson is the most courageous human being I have ever come across,” Lee said. “She inspires everyone.”

A marine biologist and former editor in chief for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carson is best known for her book “Silent Spring,” which is often credited with spurring the environmental movement. Her research also led to the ban on the chemical pesticide DDT.

Lee’s hour-long play focuses on Carson’s last years, before she died from breast cancer. In 1963, Carson was called to testify in Congress about human health and environment policies. Lee said performing the play is a way to celebrate Carson’s birthday by “bringing her back to Congress.”

Lee said she wrote the play from Carson’s journal entries, articles and other materials about her life. One part of the play incorporates Carson’s memories and reflection about her family and friends, while another part focuses on “Silent Spring” and her testimonies in Congress.

Lee, a veteran actress, wrote the play 14 years ago after she learned that Carson’s book was about to go out of print.

“[Carson] articulated so much of what I believed, and her voice was going to be forgotten,” Lee said.

The Newton Marasco Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire responsible environmental stewardship, and partner organizations are sponsoring today’s performance, to be held at 5 p.m. in the Cannon Caucus Room. The performance is open to Capitol Hill staffers.

The play “intensifies your awareness of the environment and the difference that one person can make when they put their mind to it,” said Jan Ross, executive director of Newton Marasco Foundation.

Before linking up with the foundation, Lee said she already had the goal of bringing the play to Congress. Carson’s overriding theme, Lee said, is the “interrelatedness of life.”

“I think our leaders have become myopic; they look at each problem as each arises,” Lee said. “But Americans have a larger vision for America and for our planet.”