THERE’S A STORY behind these bags — of upcycling, fashion, theater and giving back.
It’s also the story of Jen Kahn and how her company Scenery came to be.
In 2015, Kahn and a friend road-tripped from New York to Maine. They browsed in a store selling handbags made from old sails. She and her friend had an aha! moment.
Kahn, a professional stage manager, started Scenery and now collects discarded or retired backdrops from all over the country. A Florida factory cuts and stitches them into simple, rectangular clutches. A portion of the proceeds helps take New York kids to see theater.
“The only thing more sad than closing a show is watching it get thrown out,” Kahn says. “I can’t stop shows from closing, but I can help their story live on and, in doing so, continue to give the gift of theater to many more.”
Scenery bags ($30) are limited-edition, one-of-a-kind pieces. Inside each is a label identifying its show of origin. The inaugural batch came from The Desert Song, a 1926 operetta about Moroccans fighting French colonial rule. Drops from productions of Hairspray and Oklahoma! are next. The bags can be pre-ordered from the website. Doing so gives you a number and a place in line. When your number is reached, you can choose from either of two drops or defer to the next round.
Scenery bags went live online July 5 and sold out in 48 hours, making enough money to send 10 kids to shows through the Theatre Development Fund’s Stage Doors program. To date, it has recyled some 900 pounds of drops.
Kahn and her company are committed to introducing a new generation of storytellers to theater. And, she says, “taking what would have been trash and making it into immeasurable treasure.”