The personal stories that are shared when people prepare food side by side will be the focus of an innovative new theatre piece called Community Dinner, June 1 to 4.
Artists from four local theatre companies have worked with newcomers to Canada to dish up a show that's hailed as "one part cooking show, one part biography, one part dinner theatre."
Audience members seated at communal tables will watch four stylistically different pieces then feast on four dishes from around the world.
Immigrants, who collaborated with artists from Rumble Productions in association with Boca del Lupo, Electric Company Theatre and Neworld Theatre, hail from Singapore, Northwest China, the Philippines, Ecuador and Beijing, but not all of the dishes served will reflect these roots.
"I didn't want it to feel like international food fair. I also didn't want it to be like 'showcasing the immigrant,'" said Anita Rochon, who created and facilitated Community Dinner.
Rochon, co-artistic director of The Chop Theatre, says the stories aren't just immigrant stories but a blend of how the artists and newcomer related and mused on what it means to be a citizen of this city, a citizen of this country and their hopes for the future.
"And moments of what is it to be new? What is it to change your life?" she said.
Rochon, recipient of the 2010 Siminovitch Prize, as the protégé of award-winning director Kim Collier, says Community Dinner grew out of her desire to create highly participative theatre and performance that includes food.
"Part of my practice is creating theatre that's pretty relational, finding where the performer-audience [is], playing with that line," she said.
Rochon learned about MOSAIC settlement agency's host program that matches newcomers with natives or settled residents of Canada and sees them meet once a week. Following that model, two artists or associate artists from each of the theatre companies met with a newcomer once a week for three months. Together, they decided on a dish they would demonstrate and a story they'd present.
All of the recipes will be printed in the program.
Rochon says she faced an enthusiastic response when she made her pitch for participants at MOSAIC, and all of the involved newcomers arrived with theatre experience.
Leading Vancouver artists, including Governor General's Award-winning playwright Kevin Kerr, comedian and author Charles Demers and award-winning director James Fagan Tait, collaborated to cook up the various courses of Community Dinner.
The production is the first shared project of the four aforementioned theatre groups that have shared rehearsal space and administrative offices at the Progress Lab 1422 on William Street near Commercial Drive for nearly two years.
Community Dinner seats 50 at the Progress Lab and reservations are just as hard to come by as at many local restaurants. Those keen to get on a waitlist can visit vancouvertix.com or phone 604-629-8849.