From The Food Play team:
We are passionately interested in devising a play about our national relationship to food, food production, farming, farmers, the industry of livestock production and processing, and the earth itself in 2011. Basically the complicated relationship to what we eat and how it gets to our plate. Possibilities abound (!!) for what this piece can become. And it feels like a vital and necessary topic to be wrestling with these days. A mission!
We wonder: if we are what we eat, then what are we? What is America’s food culture? Is there a way to accommodate growing demand while committing to practices (on both large and small scales) that are sustainable, compassionate, and better for us and the earth itself?
We’ve compiled an ever-growing 24-book and 7-film bibliography of source material that we’re in the process of reading & mining, as we develop ideas for how to take this very important and very timely issue and alchemize it for the stage. We imagine that this play will not be your standard “sit down—lights dim—watch the play” fare, nor will it be a documentary drama – (though we do wish to draw upon existing source material); rather, we imagine this piece will combine the sensory realness of a plot of dirt with the magic of theatricality. We imagine dirt onstage, the scent of lushness, clover and hay, greenery, fruits, vegetables, nourishment, food in its purest forms, animals, sounds, puppets, movement, choreography, wind, light, rain, water, storms, slaying, death, rebirth, crisis, oil, mass production, mass containment, mass slaughter, mass breeding, the organic industry, Joel Salatin, small farms, big farms, the seasons, supermarket shelves, food in its most processed form, restaurants, lunch boxes, and the dinner table. Over the course of the play, seeds will be planted, crops will be harvested, food will be made and shared among the audience, and drama will unfold. Perhaps the play ends in a feast?!
The idea is that this theatrical piece will include a visceral, sensory experience for the audience and actors alike. Also, that this piece will become a model for creating sustainable, environmentally responsible theater.
So, here’s what’s happened so far…
We kicked things off with a wonderful day trip to Ryder Farm in September, 2010, where we took a tour with Doug, met some goats, some chickens, and plenty of bees, helped the tomato plants make their way up the vines, did a bit of weeding, and came together at the lunch table for the first time to process our research and our experiences that day, and most of all, to break bread together.
Then, over the course of the late summer/early fall, we embarked on a series of family brunches and dinners on Sundays, meetings where we broke bread, shared stories of our food memories and food culture, and engaged in conversations about the variety of food-related topics (social, political, and personal) that came up for us as we read, researched, cooked and ate. Towards the end of this series of meetings, we got up on our feet for the first time during our two-day Suspect Studio at New York Theatre Workshop, where each ensemble member led an exercise of their choice (physical, writing, conversational, compositional, etc.). Now, we are in the middle of more focused exercises, writing, improvisation, and composition work in order to generate the raw material with which we’ll build this theatrical event. With one-week workshops having taken place in February and March, and coming up in April and May—including a week-long residency at New Georges in March and a presentation of our work at New York Theatre Workshop in May—our goal is to have a working rough draft of half or of our play by the beginning of the summer, when we’ll head to SPACE at Ryder Farm for the next phase.