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Cuisine & Confesssions FREE
Posted June 29, 2020
When the virus hit, and the sheltering began, we chose to make some of our shows available on line. This had never been our intention in the past but we, like so many performing troupes in the time of the pandemic, embraced the opportunity to continue to reach audiences, at home and behind their screens if not in theaters. We created a list and an order of which shows we would broadcast, madly searching and editing available footage.

This month we were scheduled to broadcast Cuisine and Confessions. Though completely on-schedule with our plans from months ago, we can’t ignore the renewed relevance of several of the show’s themes.

For context, Cuisine and Confessions is a show based on the personal stories of our nine international performers. We began creation in 2014, with a single microphone and an empty stage. One by one the cast told biographies of their fathers, their mothers, their grandfathers and grandmothers. They retold the story of their own lives, through food.

Food is inextricably linked to our notion of family, of love, of how we care for and are cared for by our loved ones. (The word “nurse” is actually a derivation of “nourish”). We started creation with that premise—that our deepest, most visceral memories were connected to food—and it was astonishing to hear the stories that were unearthed. So often, a simple recounting of a favorite food, or memory of an important meal, revealed the most pivotal events, family secrets, nuanced relationships, bonding, abandonment, pain and comfort… An entire ancestry contained in a single ingredient.

Among the personal stories was that of Matias Plaul, whose father was of Argentina’s desaparecido: kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by the military government. The recounting of his father’s hunting and disappearance due to his political dissidence is a cautionary story we all need to hear, and rehear.

Which can also be said for the stories of Sidney Iking Bateman and Melvin Diggs. Two African-American men brought up in a very rough part of St. Louis, Missouri. Their personal stories were filled with tragic details of too many close friends and family whose lives were cut short.

When we created Melvin and Sidney’s act 6 years ago, it seemed shockingly timely, as Michael Brown’s killing in Ferguson, Missouri (a suburb of St. Louis not far from where they grew up) hit the news while we were in mid-creation. And yet it’s heartbreaking to realize that the timing neither then, nor now, was particularly coincidental; heartbreaking that it has in fact held constant and continued relevance; heartbreaking that 6 years later their stories carry the accumulative weight of countless similar stories.

As a matter of fact, loss and tragedy turned out to be a recurring theme for our whole cast! So many with absent or deceased parents, we even entitled the aerial silks act “The Departed,” as the cast danced with empty, ghost-like articles of clothing, an ode to their departed family members.

However, Seb and I made a choice to tell these stories through a lens of hope and joy. Hope and joy by which every one of those individuals absolutely lived. Hope and joy so inherent in the essence of law-of-nature-defying circus. Hope and joy inherent in the moment these individuals discovered circus in the first place, often a window to renewed life and possibilities. And of course, the hope and joy of eating and cooking itself :)

Not only were stories unearthed, but recipes as well! The fantastic Winnicki brothers (‘Satay Brothers’) helped recreate (and improve :)) those real-life recipes, taking into account the complexity of cooking on stage, and serving to the audience. Our cast, in addition to the rigorous circus training, spent afternoons in a professional restaurant kitchen, learning how to properly slice and dice and sauté. While practicing and perfecting the dishes, we had countless dinners at our own house, all 9 of them crammed around our tiny stove. I’ve never eaten so many omelettes and banana bread in such a condensed period of time.

As Claude Lelouch once said, “to be totally universal you need to be completely personal”. So hopefully these completely personal stories can strike a continued universal chord. Also: cool circus tricks. :)

(This version was filmed in 2014 at the Tohu, in its fledgling months of existence, and is primarily in French. Subtitles are available by clicking the CC [closed caption] feature on the Youtube link.)

Shana Carroll
Co-Founder, The 7 Fingers
Co-Director, Cuisine and Confessions
Note from the CircusNYC Editors: Posted as received.