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Astoria thespians dramatically recoup lost props

Three Astoria residents and members of the theater troupe Hipgnosis narrowly avoided disaster recently when city Sanitation Department workers mistook their theatrical props, costumes and treasures for curbside trash.

April 21 was the loading day for Demetri Bonaros, John Caros and Shalin Patel, members of the Hipgnosis theater company, which meant gathering all personal and theater-owned lighting equipment, hand-crafted costumes specific to the show and assorted props in order to set the stage for the opening night performance of "The Caucasian Chalk Circle" on April 26.

Bonaros, Caros and Patel were carrying bags of stage items from Bonaros' Astoria home to their truck. When returning with a second load, they realized that all of the initial round of items left at the curb were gone.

"The first thought was that someone had stolen it," said Bonaros, the show's musical composer, "but we realized it would have been very difficult to steal. There were a lot of bags."

From his home on 32nd Street, they could make out a Sanitations Department truck driving down 34th Street. They ran to catch up with it and asked the driver if he had picked up bags at their location. He informed them that a different truck had, which should have been on 45th Street by then. They jumped in their truck and chased the other vehicle down, eventually catching up with it and flagging it down.

"They were very helpful and also apologetic, although in truth none of this was their fault," Bonaros said. "They were happy to let me roll around in the trash. We were able to identify our own trash along with the rancid milk spilling out of the other bags."

The trio spent 30 minutes diving for lost treasures while taking pictures and recovered a fair portion of what was lost. The items not recovered were the women's costumes and some of the more intricate props. Over the next few days, costume designer Krista Thomas-Scott and props designer Jessica Hinkle worked hard to complete the designs for the show.

Bonaros disclosed with pride that the costume designs for the show got positive reviews.

"Two clichs jumped to mind. 'The show must go on' because we were committed to that April 26 deadline and 'One person's trash is another's treasure,' or the inverse of that," he said. "That is a bit of the nature of off-Broadway theater. We're not 'Miss Saigon.' If your play calls for a helicopter, you do it in other ways."

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