STORIES FROM A SMALL HOUSE: Food is the New Site-Specific

STORIES FROM A SMALL HOUSE: Food is the New Site-Specific

Continuing the conversation on Food and Theatre…

Last April’s American Theatre magazine (the "Food Issue") included this piece by Mark Blankenship that profiled four food-inspired productions. Each company used food to create a small theatrical community and to build a link to the community at large. The article begins:

Consider yourself lucky: You've just seen a piece of theatre that sprang from your own community—a show that had to be created here, where you live, because it says something authentic and essential about the place. The show you saw was especially powerful because it reframed the setting of your everyday life—it turned your neighbors, your neighborhood and (you began to feel) even aspects of you into art, opening your eyes to new possibilities, new connections. If you lived in Manhattan in 2003, that show might have been The Angel Project, in which British director Deborah Warner led you and your fellow New Yorkers from building to building, through offices and alleys that have been altered just enough to seem new.

By making this connection to The Angel Project, Blankenship implies that food is the new site-specific. In other words, theatre artists are looking to food as a way of responding to a desire for intimate connections and one-of-a-kind, sensual experiences that can be shared by small communities of theatergoers.

One of the pieces profiled in the article is Sojourn Theatre’s On The Table, which brought two different shows to two small audiences, one in Portland, Oregon, and one in nearby rural Molalla. Each audience then traveled by bus (performance continuing on board) to come together for a meal and share their different experiences. Dramaturg Mead Hunter blogged about the show, describing it this way:

Sojourn’s presentations are remarkable because they actually need you to see them in order to complete the play — not just so you’ll buy a ticket, not to justify some grant, but because the play is actually about your presence in that room. Or in this case, at that table, breaking bread with 89 other people.

On a totally different note, Blankenship also included the acclaimed Double Edge Theatre, an international laboratory theatre located on a farm in rural Ashfield, Massachusetts. In this case, food does not form the basis of performance but of company life -- the resident artists grow their own food, which they share with theatergoers. As Blankenship notes:

Food helps Double Edge create what its mission statement calls "total culture," or, to elaborate, "original theatre performance, based on the long-term imaginative work of the actor and his/her interaction with the communities in which the work takes place." Food gives Double Edge's artists myriad ways to interact with, rely on and welcome the people around them.”

This video promo from an upcoming documenatry about Double Edge gives a sense of their work and their company:

Food -- another opportunity for theatre to build small communities that then build a bridge to the community at large. Just what theatre should do.

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