The Arthropologist

Hungry for the arts: How I survive on the "reception" diet

Hungry for the arts: How I survive on the "reception" diet

Art feeds me. No really, it does. It's no secret that I come to just about every opening night reception a hungry girl. Just ask Shawna Forney at Diverse Worksshe orders extra when she knows I am coming. I am a first generation Italian-American, so my next meal ranks right up there with your new opera.

I've done some quality eating on the art watching circuit over the years. I love the straightforward, no-nonsense fare at Main Street Theater's opening nights. It's just like the plays Rebecca Greene Udden selects, substantial and nourishing. The champagne and creme puffs at Stages Repertory Theatre remind me of artistic director Kenn McLaughlin's sense of whimsy. Misha Penton of Divergence Vocal Theater aimed for a Roman theme with her Pomegranate martinis, in keeping with her Sapphic explorations. The grilled vegetables after Mercury Baroque were a godsend after I swore off bread.

Uptown Dance Company's dessert table wins hands down in the sugar rush department, while the custard cups at Dominic Walsh Dance Theater's after-party at Artista are subtle, but pack a wallop, not unlike Walsh's work. Sometimes Society for the Performing Arts has green room fare that matches the show. There was something unassuming and homey about the sherbet and ginger ale punch served after Revolve Dance Company's recent sexy and sassy show. I cherished the carnivore delights at Hotel Icon's Voice during John DeMers' Houston ArtsWeek launch.  But have you ever tried to talk to an artist about their next show while munching a lamb chop?

I never find much to eat when crashing young professionals' arts events. Could it be that the youngsters are still too fixated on their figures? But bless you Heather Pray of Houston Young People for the Arts for the hearty meal before Catastrophic Theatre's Hunters and Gatherers. That's not a play you want to see on an empty stomach. So beware, it's coming around again in the summer.

After show receptions are a good thing. We get to meet and mingle with the artists. We munch, sip and chomp while our brains are doing the exact same thing. When people linger they are savouring the experience, digesting the art, so to speak.

Once Jane Weiner of Hope Stone Dance served pizza to the entire audience after the show. It was funny, surprising and indicative of the kind of community she hopes to create. Another time she served milk and cookies. Recently, Weiner reminded me that I brought the cookies. During her food-centered romp, The Cooking Show, she served palette-cleansing sorbet during the pauses, and the piece featured raw meat, bags of flour, and plenty on onstage gobbling. I left the show starving and headed straight to Birraporetti's

Sometimes food is actually part of the art experience. Liz Lerman of the Dance Exchange aimed for even more integration during her Time has set the Table for Tea during the Systems of Sustainability conference at University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts. Audience and performers sat at elegantly set tables, enjoyed tea and chocolate cake, while dancing intermittently erupted. Having your tea mate burst into dance is something to behold. Lerman is experimenting with audience engagement, and food and drink might be the fastest way to get there. Neither the tea nor the cake were arbitrary choices. Lerman was inspired by the tea house run by Edith Warner at Los Alamos. Robert Oppenheimer was particularly fond of Warner's chocolate cake. From now on, teas will be part of Lerman's performance structure. And to think, she tested it right here in Houston.

Even stranger and with more to eat was Claude Wampler's Rehearsed Reverse at DiverseWorks, where we watched each course being deconstructed on giant screens. At the moment the deconstruction was complete, a waiter would appear with the plate we just watched in reverse. Time to eat and chat with our table mates was built into the process. It was by far the most artful eating thus far.

Dance people, despite their waif status, do love to eat. Tonight, I will be chowing down with fellow dance lovers at Celebrate Dance, The Jewish Community's Dance Month 30th birthday party at Warehouse Live.


A contributing editor at Dance Magazine, Houston and Dance Source Houston, Nancy Wozny blogs at

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Penny Tschirhart, left, Susan Blair, Alicia Chew and Lindsey McGill in Jane Weiner's "The Cooking Show" Courtesy of Hope Stone Dance Company
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"Time has Set the Table for Tea" performed by Liz Lerman Dance Exchange at Blaffer Gallery as part of the Systems of Sustainability conference at the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts Photo by Pin Lim/Forest Photography
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Claude Wampler, still from "Rehearsed Reverse" installation and performance at DiverseWorks ArtSpace, 2007 Courtesy of the artist