Blog

9.20.13

Grantee Spotlight: Puppets come to life through support from Expeditions Program

Program Director, New England Presenting & Touring, Center Stage
NEFA

In 2011, 50.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 33.5 million adults and 16.7 million children. Food insecurity exists in every county in America. (Feeding America)

Watch this video to hear from the Who's Hungry artists about their creative process.

With support from NEFA’s Expeditions program, the New England tour of Who’s Hungry begins this month with its first stop on Martha's Vineyard. Created by Los Angeles performance artist Dan Froot, New York puppetry artist Dan Hurlin, and Seattle composer Amy Denio, Who’s Hungry is an evening of tabletop puppet plays that give a voice and face to hunger in America. Performed on a 24-foot long dinner table serving as the stage the life stories of five homeless and/or hungry individuals are shared through a performance incorporating a variety puppetry styles, dance, music, and text. 

PLANNING THE TOUR

An Expeditions Tour Planning grant awarded in 2012 to the Charlestown Working Theater brought Dan Froot to New England to:

  • meet potential presenting organizations,
  • attend NEFA’s Idea Swap, and
  • discuss tour dates, production details, and community engagement strategies.

"For a small presenter like MCLA Presents!, presenting a production like Who's Hungry would never be possible without the financial support of NEFA, and as important is NEFA's leadership in introducing us to the work through the Idea Swap and then facilitating the connecting of presenters throughout New England who, as a group, can combine resources, talent, and ideas to fully support the artist and the work." 
Jonathan Secor, MCLA Presents!

NEW ENGLAND PARTNERS COLLABORATE

Following several months of planning, six presenters submitted applications for Expeditions Touring support, and all were enthusiastically selected for funding by a panel of arts professionals.

“[By presenting Who's Hungry], this consortium of presenters aims to generate productive cross-class conversations in our specific local communities that will impact a larger conversation across multiple sectors in our shared regional community. Through this project, we ask not only who's hungry but how are we responsible, and what, individually and collectively, are we prepared to do about it?” explains Jennifer Johnson of Charlestown Working Theater.

MAKING EACH PERFORMANCE UNIQUE

The tour has presenting partners in Massachusetts, Maine, and Connecticut, each working closely with community-based organizations that work with food-insecure populations. For example, during the engagement on Martha’s Vineyard, staff from The Yard, local dance community members, and the Who's Hungry cast will harvest and distribute produce free of charge from a local farm that has an abundance of produce they are unable to use.

Wesleyan University is exploring a new post-show concept with their performance,” explains Barbara Ally, Associate Director for Programming and Events at the Center for the Arts. “Dan Froot has arranged for three of the people in California whose stories are being told in the work to watch a live streaming of the performance and then Skype with the audience afterward. It will be an experience to hear from them about how they became involved in the project, how they feel about the way they were portrayed in the piece, and more. The audience will become part of the dialogue, not only with the artists present, but with those whose stories have been told.”

The partners have also taken advantage of the expertise within their collaboration. Leslee Asch, Executive Director of Silvermine Arts Center is presenting Who’s Hungry in the spring of 2014, but she is also well known for her many years of work in puppet theater. She has written an essay that each presenter will share with their audience to offer more insights into puppetry and the use of puppets to tell these stories.  

Additionally, each presenter has done interviews with local community members about food insecurity and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts is creating an audio montage of the interviews for each presenter to install in their lobby and distribute to radio stations such as Portland Ovations has already done with one local radio program

EXPERIENCE WHO’S HUNGRY IN A TOWN NEAR YOU!

Who’s Hungry seeks to bring communities together, to enrich the efforts of food policy activists, to empower the voices of people living with food insecurity, and to inspire theatergoers to engage in the issue. Attend one of these upcoming performances!

Date Venue City/State
9.20-21.13 The Yard Chilmark, MA
9.27-28.13 Wesleyan University, Center for the Arts Middletown, CT
10.3-5.13 Charlestown Working Theater Charlestown, MA
3.29.14 Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts North Adams, MA
4.1-5.14 Silvermine Arts Center New Canaan, CT
4.10-13.14 Portland Ovations Portland, ME

Photos by Rose Eichenbaum.