What's For Supper? Edible Props in Steep Theatre's Moment
Moment opens on the Lynch family preparing a dinner to celebrate the homecoming of the clan's prodigal son. Frozen microwavable quiches have been purchased, celery and carrots are chopped on the counter, a carton of eggs is dropped on the floor. One sibling munches a sandwich, visitors sip chilled beer and the hostesses maintain their serenity with freshly-brewed tea.
This constitutes a week's groceries for most households. How does a small storefront theater on a limited budget keep its pantry stocked?
"Jon Ravenscroft, our wonderful stage manager, is the only one who knows exactly what's on the list," property designer Maria DeFabo assures me, "Besides the quiches and the vegetables, I know there's cream cheese, potato salad, bread, eggs, olive oil and other items I'm probably forgetting. We shop pretty much as normal people do, but though all of the actors eat in the course of the show, no one onstage consumes as much as they would in real life."
Where is the food stored between performances? "What we all love about storefront theater is that the answer can be right onstage!" laughs DeFabo, "When we saw that the scenic design included a refrigerator, we had lots of discussion about the light working and beer bottles having that little fog on them when you take them out. We finally decided to make everybody's life easier by just keeping the appliance plugged in."
Even though the eggshells break audibly when the carton hits the ground, they present no serious problems, declares DeFabo. "We boil nine out of the dozen, and leave three uncooked to control the mess, but the script directs actors to wipe it up, so we give them actual cleaning solution and paper towels." She chuckles, "We use a new carton every night, but we bought them in bulk, so we have about a hundred of them!"
What foodstuffs do present the most difficulties? "The quiches. The script says they make two, because the mother worries that there might not be enough, so we figured on a seven-inch pie, but most of the frozen variety are either really small, or really large. So after we found a dollar store that sold metal tins in the right size, Julia Siple, our production manager, volunteered to make a quiche for each performance."
How about the packaging? The characters talk at length about the quiches being bought at a Tesco store [the UK equivalent of Wal-Mart]. "I found some containers of the correct dimensions and photoshopped a cover identifying them as 'Tesco Frozen Quiche'—we just slide the pie into the box before the show and glue the flap shut so that the actors can go through the business of opening it." DeFabo grins in satisfaction, "In my eyes, those quiche boxes are the stars of the show!"
Steep Theatre's extended run of Moment continues at Theater Wit through October 28.
Mary Shen Barnidge
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