If you knew you were about to be reunited with an old lover, what meal would you make them? What meal would you make if you knew today was your last day on this planet?
Exploring the intimate nature and social connections arising from our experiences with food, UC Davis department of theatre and dance presents The Matter of Taste – directed by Granada Artist-in-Residence Anna Fenemore.
The Matter of Taste takes on cultural and social complexities of food and how it brings people together through a multitude of senses such as taste, smell, sight, sound and touch. Preparing and consuming food is not merely a physical act, but rather the beginning of a multidimensional process of interactions we experience with other people.
Fenemore’s interest in taste first originated when she served as artistic director for a piece called The Housekeeper, presented by the U.K.-based physical theatre company Pigeon Theatre. The piece aspired to bridge the gap between the performer and spectator, utilizing food.
“Conceptually, working with food is something I’ve played with in the past 10 years,” Fenemore said. “It was the gesture of giving – the moment you give food to people, people begin to talk and contribute stories.”
Fenemore is interested in how food has become a vehicle for triggering specific memories and experiences with those around us – both those present and those who are no longer with us.
“People begin talking about their mother or grandmother and people they’ve fallen in love with – all over dinner,” Fenemore said. “We talk about absent people and people who might be long dead. It is a way to connect the absent and the present together.”
All 16 performers will be cooking, eating, talking and interacting on a single stage. A long linear dining table and kitchen equipped with working stoves and refrigerators will compose the main stage design. The audience will be experiencing the performance with all of their senses as the food is prepared live. Music will also be a major component of the production.
“We are actually cooking on stage with a working stove. It’s an actual kitchen,” said Daniel Jordan, a performer and senior dramatic arts major. “We will be giving out food to the audience as well. Also, a lot of the music experiences are about how we celebrate with food – like dancing in the kitchen. Music is a big part of festivities and food.”
Along with the arboretum, the UC Davis food management and campus catering company, Sodexo, will be co-sponsoring the production and selling food. After the show, Fenemore and the entire cast continues the “dinner party” and invites the audience to join them on the Wyatt Deck where they can eat, dance and interact with the cast members.
“How we interact and how we love is a big part of what food does to us. If you think about it, most of the time we interact with people is over food,” Jordan said. “Food in general is a big part of who we are.”
UYEN CAO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.