"Oh, Gastronomy!": The Process

March 21, 2012

Re-posted with permission from the author. Read the entire blog post here.

Oh, Gastronomy!: The Process
by Michael Golamco

FOOD: The word connotes so many things. Personally, it’s one of my favorite words — the two “o”s in the middle look like a pair of binoculars staring out at everything that makes my stomach happy. I think of donuts, ribeye steaks, grilled cheese sandwiches, sushi, prime rib; I think of Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles, of the awesome gay frozen yogurt shop in West Hollywood (“Pump it yourself!”), of McDonald’s french fries. I think of gluttony, I think of Thanksgiving, I think of joy; a billion things come to mind.

And that’s just me. To each one of us, food means many good and bad things — it may make us recall satisfaction, hunger, emptiness. It makes us self-conscious; it reminds us that “we are what we eat”. “Food” is such a simple word but it evokes so much.

So how do you write an evening of theatre about such a vast and nebulous topic as FOOD? Well, this was our challenge as we set to work on Oh, Gastronomy! for the 36th Annual Humana Festival — and I think we did a pretty nifty job.

Actors Theatre assembled a crackerjack team to take on this task. Our director Amy Attaway and co-conciever and developer Sarah Lunnie put together an awesome crew of playwrights: Carson Kreitzer, Steve Moulds, Tanya Saracho, Matt Schatz, and myself; plus there was Actors Theatre’s Apprentice Company — the young actors who would be performing this food show for Humana 36. These actors are awesome — they were an integral part of the development process, and I’ll be talking about them more in my next post.

We first got together in September. We spent our first weekend together exploring the topic of FOOD; we went on field trips throughout Louisville — some of us checked out a convergence of food trucks; others went to a soup kitchen. A group to a chocolate-making demonstration. And some of us went to White Castle. The White Castle people talked about the chain’s history, gave us free food, and were tremendous hosts — they even let us work the drive-thru and the grill! At least one of the Apprentices was offered a job on the spot.

We basically used our first few days together to talk about food and to name all the things that food meant to us; once we were back at Actors Theatre HQ, we broke into groups and improv’d a few things and tried a few things out. My group made a list of food related people and items for inspiration (click here to take a look), and we devised a few little scenes.

Then we started writing immediately — we all went back to our hotel rooms and got on our computers that night and started cranking stuff out. After just three days together we were presenting first drafts to the group as a whole, seeing where we dovetailed together thematically; in fact, the incomparable Matt Schatz had even begun to compose musical numbers! The basic “clay” of the show was beginning to form, and it was pretty amazing to see how much writing was put together in such a short amount of time.

Looking back on that first weekend, it’s fascinating to see what actually ended up making it into the show. (SPOILER ALERT: Our show has Food Trucks!) The initial process of brainstorming and creation happened at such a blistering pace — it was really fun to be a part of.

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