If the work of a theatre director isn’t hard enough these days with ever-shrinking rehearsal periods (a tiny three and a half weeks seems to be the current standard in many theatres in the Bay Area!) and increasing competition from events involving food trucks, live painting and DJs, it now seems that staging scenes involving food has become an unpalatable chore.
I was having a drink a couple of days ago with a theatre director friend of mine who’s working on a production at a quite high profile regional theatre company right now. Like many dramas, the play he’s producing has a scene in it in which the characters eat a meal on stage.
In the past, staging such a scene generally wouldn’t have been a big deal. But apparently the list of dietary restrictions that the director received from the actors in this production is so ridiculously long — we’re not simply talking about one cast member declining to eat meat here; the list includes all kinds of no-no’s like no soy, no gluten, no dairy etc — that finding a way to stage the meal scene is proving to be a massive problem.
The theatre company unsurprisingly balks at the budget involved in coming up with a realistic-looking culinary option that accommodates all the various dietary peccadilloes of the cast members. Management suggested that the director cut the scene entirely. This, naturally, he isn’t willing to do.
I can’t imagine this sort of problem happening ten years ago. Is it the quality of food that’s to blame for creating a more allergic population? Are theatres’ decreasing resources at the root of the problem for no longer being able to afford to serve up stage meals that meet the dietary restrictions of actors while still looking credible to audiences? Or is it that Bay Area thespians simply being too fussy?