At the table…

May 9, 2015

I love food. I love eating it, learning about it, reading about it and watching it. One of the reasons I’m glad I don’t have cable is my propensity to spend unnecessary hours with the food network.

And so, when looking for something to watch on Netflix I noticed a new series called Chef’s Table I dove right in. I discovered the unexpected in these six documentaries. Rather than getting a mediation on food (though there was some) or inspiration on dishes (again, there was some) what I found was a compelling look at the lives of artists.

The six chef’s from all over the world have different styles of living and cooking but what binds them all is the uniqueness of their visions and the passion of their drives. I was only familiar with one of them: Dan Barber whose book The Third Plate I devoured while on vacation last summer. The rest were new to me and I was impressed with the choices that covered much of the globe: LA to Sweden to Patagonia. I was glad to see a woman highlighted (LA’s Niki Nakayama). The director’s weaves personal stories, food stories and the politics of artistic entrepreneurship in a way that makes the viewer feel like you’re getting a glimpse at something special.

And all of this made me think about theatre.

In DC it is hard not to make the leap between participation on the arts and in food life. The amount of disposable income being plunked down on restaurants in this city is massive and I’m guessing I’m not the only art maker who wishes that some of that excitement and money could be shifted over to arts makers.

And yet, the thing that became clear while watching is that these chef’s are artists. And they make theatre. At least three of the documentaries discussed the theatrics or performance of the meal. The diner in all cases was being considered as an audience member. The artist/chefs ruminated on the same questions that face any kind of artist (but particularly theatre makers): how do you balance vision and economy? How do you work with a team to provide and receive inspiration? How do you maintain work/life balance? How does your product represent the immediate (the time and place, here and now)?

Imagine my shock when in the first of the series, Italian chef Massimo Bottura describes his wife Laura as being indispensable to the process of his creation. She is “looking at the things from a distance, so she sees everything very clear.” That may be one of the clearest descriptions of the role of dramaturg I’ve seen.

There must be ways of merging the creativity of food-making with the creativity of performance making. With blending the two worlds and economies not as separate but connected modes of sensual storytelling.

In the meantime, watch the documentaries. If you don’t have the time to take them all in, I’d suggest watching Mossimo Bottura and Niki Nakayama first.


let’s strive not only for peace but peace of mind

January 5, 2009

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the situation in Gaza since it began. I’ve been asked by friends for my opinions, I’ve read numerous news articles and op-ed pieces from a multitude of perspectives and I have to say I’m at a loss. When Israel invaded Lebanon a few summers ago I felt heartbroken and betrayed. Maybe that feeling isn’t in place again because I never forgave Israel enough. I never got back to a place were I was in a position to have my heart broken again. I was no longer surprised by their actions. Or maybe it’s because the situation in Gaza just seems so beyond fixing. It’s a tangle is too tight to be unraveled. Or at least, by me, I keep hoping there are still smart idealistic people out there who think they may have an answer. Who still think peace is possible.

It’s not just about peace though. That is not the thrust of the issue. Yes, obviously there should be peace. Yes, cease fire sounds great, ceasing fire, no more fire. But the issues here go so much deeper. On the Palestinian side you have a people who have been so beaten down by generations of poverty, oppression and lack of opportunities that they cannot trust that peace could even exist. And on the Israeli side you have a people also bruised and embittered by constant wars. The pain of the aggressor seems like an oxymoron but it is actually there. It is that pain that allows people to say that it’s okay that innocent people are being killed. It’s that pain that shuts people off to the inhumanity of their actions.

I’m not saying that Israel is wrong to try to defend themselves from the rocket attacks. Israel has to watch out for its citizens. But I cannot condone the finger pointing that is going on. I just cannot watch one more talking head say that it is all Hamas’s fault that innocent civilians die because they are being used as human shields. As correct and horrible as that may be there is still no excuse. Morality, from a religious source or secular,  should teach the stronger party to use their strength to lift up the weaker, not use the excuse of the others weakness to push them even further down.

I saw the Israeli film Waltz with Bashir this weekend. It’s getting a wide distribution in the next few weeks and I suspect that many people will be seeing it and getting the perspective into the Israeli psychology that it gives.  The film is an animated documentary that follows the film maker’s attempts to remember his own participation in the ’82 Lebanon War and more specifically the role that he played in the massacres at Saaba and Shatila.  The massacres were not led by the Israeli army. Yet, they were made possible by the Israeli army. The film cuts very deeply into that wound and lets it bleed.  It explores the concept of responsibility of action and mind.  We may not be the ones pulling the trigger but we cannot escape the implications of our own actions or inaction’s.

Watching the film and reading the news it is hard not to feel similarly.  As a diaspora jew, as an american, I can watch but not watch. I can change the channel, I can ignore. I am not the one being hurt. My country is not involved. Except that we sit off at the sidelines and do nothing. We allow, not just in Gaza but all over the world, mass killings.  Even now we are fighting wars and still there is no sign of it as we walk down the streets. There is a moment in Waltz where the narrator is remembering how during the wars he experienced as a child everything shut down, but in ’82, with the fighting up north life continued on.  Our 21st century world allows us to live life comfortably unaware or only mildly aware of atrocities.  Once you start looking at them though, looking deeply, it is hard to look away.  I don’t know the answer to peace. But I do know that as much as I want to look away and live comfortably in my privileged world, I shouldn’t. I do know that I should look closely and ask those around me to do the same. I may not be smart enough or learned enough to solve this, I may never live to see it solved, but I can’t ignore that there is a problem and I can’t blindly support just because I believe in an ideology.

things that made me cry this week

November 12, 2008

mad about the boy

October 27, 2008

Mad Men has ended it’s season. I’ve been enjoying the trip back in time that it’s been providing on a weekly basis. It does upset me a bit though when people start talking about it as AMC’s break into having a tv series rather than just movies. Maybe it’s their first as “The Future of the Classic” but back when they played actual classic classics they had Remember WENN. Those who knew me back in High School knew of my obsession with that trip back in time, a trip that included beautiful 40s vintage and came with some of the best Broadway actors of the 90s making routine appearances. To me in high school the show was perfect. It was before the days of DVD’s so it has disappeared, except for a handful of vhs’s that I recorded off the tv ten years ago.

I’d been hesitant to return to watching a series on AMC when the one I loved had been so cruely cancelled. And now that I’m a loyal Mad Men fan I fear for it’s similar fate. But they are signed up for season number three, hopefully soon with the same artistic team.  This week it’s been easy to find Mad Men love all over the place. Saturday Night Live had actor Jon Hamm as a guest start last week where they put together a little “Don Draper’s Guide to Getting Women.” It’s all rather inside jokey, which is an odd thing for network TV but hopefully it also got some new audience to the show. Read the rest of this entry »

back to our regularly scheduled programming

September 22, 2008

and speaking of television,  Mad Men won 6 very deserved emmy’s last night. It’s been a long time since I’ve really followed a tv show, besides project runway or top chef (which have been more of a social following). I’ve been loving discovering Mad Men, as every episode is truly about discovery. The storytelling in the show sets the watcher on a journey of discovery, no plot detail or back story is fully explained, the watcher has to be attentive in order to work out the details and connections, and I like being required to think while watching.

and speaking of watching, i watched a number of things this weekend: a movie, a rehearsal and a parade.

the movie was Vicky Christina Barcelona Woody Allen’s new ode to beauty. I say ode to beauty because that was really what it was beautiful passionate people making love and having affairs in a beautiful place. I didn’t love the movie but I enjoyed watching the beauty and it made me want to return to Barcelona. I also kinda dug the narration which turned the story into a kind of modern fairy tale.

the rehearsal was the open rehearsal for The Wooster Group’s La Didone.  My friends and I didn’t know what to expect, would it be a full run, like a final dress rehearsal, would it be stop and go? The website and program told us it would be 90 minutes but it ended up being only about 45 minutes. But it was thrilling! The new show is very unique to the group. It’s their first, that I’m aware of, opera. There are two main stories being told in La Didone, Francesco Cavalli’s seventeenth-century opera of the same name and a 60s or 70s Italian Sci-Fi movie about landing on a strange planet. The dialogue and singing are interspersed and everyone is wearing space suits. We only watched about three scenes but it certainly made us all excited to come back in the spring for the full production! It was also great, for me, to watch Liz LeCompte at work after having just did a presentation on her, I felt like a crazy stalking fan, since fresh in my mind were all the details of her life.

The parade was the 5 hour long Harlem extravaganza, the African American Day Parade.  Starting out at 111th and Adam Clayton Powell the parade traveled all the way north through Harlem. Being a few blocks from the start 113th, which my apartment looks out on became a staging ground. Before the parade started we got first looks at some of the floats, and as the parade went on we got to have our own private concerts of marching bands, as they practiced while waiting to march. I was outside watching most of the parade but it just went on and on and on. I went back in the house to try to get some reading done which was impossible due to the noise coming in from the streets. So I resigned myself to parade day and went back outside to watch more floats and bands. You can see a full set of pictures (and a couple of videos) I took here. After the parade I met up with my buddy Nick who came up to the apple to see a concert. We had tasty crepes and I returned home, which was now thankfully free of the parade noises, to read and watch Mad Men.  (look how that entry went full circle).

dr horrible’s sing-along blog

August 22, 2008

i can’t believe it took me this long to watch Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Really, really brilliant. Watch it.

these always make me think and dream

June 30, 2008