Cindy Hanson and Kathryn Dickinson in Cooking With Lard at HERE.
In the vein of Fried Green Tomatoes, a new off-beat, comedy co-written by Texans Cindy Hanson and Cheryl Norris opens this week at HERE.
Cooking With Lard is set in Addies diner and takes place over the course of a day (dawn to dusk) in a small Texas town, just outside of Austin. Theres a mystery here the death of a local man whose wife may have killed him - and everybodys talking about it, along with every other snippet of news they can wrap their vocal chords around.
Part of White Bird Productions Flying South Series, Cooking with Lard marks the reunion of a creative team who studied theater together over 20 years ago at SMU.
Our general mission is to do theater works that explore urban environments, says Artistic director/actor, Kathryn Dickinson, who founded White Bird in 1998.
We collaborate with theater artists on environmental themes, and currently were exploring plays that take place in and examine the American South. Weve also been doing something called Creative Theatrics, theater programs in Brooklyn for children and youth.
The Cooking With Lard project began about five years ago, after Hanson invited Dickinson to see a production of the show in Chicago. Dickinson was impressed, and when Hanson moved to New York soon after, the two began work on a new staging of the piece.
What first attracted me to the play was that four actresses play fifteen different characters - all women, said Dickinson, who also acts in the show. Plus, its very funny in its exploration of the human spirit. Its about how people really talk to each other. The writing style has some broad comedy and some performance art blended into it. We dont use make-up or wigs, so were dependent on words and performance. In this time of multi-media abstract theater, this is a throwback to older traditional works. Its something like Greater Tuna- female Southern Gothic.
Dickinson describes the set for Cooking With Lard as a naturalistic diner, with walls covered in black and red menus, red and white checkered floor, and interspersed splotches of turquoise. A heavy dose of Texan tunes keeps everything jumping.
Both playwrights grew up in Texas, and lots of people there still cook with lard, so Addie does too, in her diner, said Dickinson. And theres another character, a protester, who is a vegetarian. Weve got a lot of meat images here, and lots of good-natured debate. Its really high voltage all the way through.
So how does that affect the actor/directors personal energy flow?
Im not usually in these shows, so its wonderful to do this one, but it takes a huge amount of stamina to do both. But thats true for everyone involved. My hope is that this translates to the audience. Its so cathartic when you have a really good laugh. This play doesnt challenge you on the surface. Its meant to be fun and light.
On the other hand, theres also something more to be found here, she said. I was born in Mississippi, grew up in California. Often New Yorkers think theyre the only sophisticated, smart people in America, and thats just not true. There are some jerky people in the diner, but we also meet some open-minded, intelligent folks there as well. The characters might seem stereotypical, but theyre also recognizable. No matter where youre from, there is that character in your own environment.