Tom Strini

Home Cooking with Wild Space

By - Feb 8th, 2012 04:42 am

Debra Loewen, Wild Space founder and artistic director.

Debra Loewen spoke of choosing ingredients, mixing them in various proportions, adding a little seasoning, and ending up with something delicious.

She was talking about cooking and about dancing — at the same time.

Loewen’s Wild Space dancers will be involved in both in Delicious, which opens Thursday at the Milwaukee Rep’s Stiemke Theater. Before the show proper, Michelle Evans, chef at Braise restaurant, will give a cooking demonstration. During the show, current chef and former Wild Space dancer Jennifer Goetzinger will cook while the dance in progress.

“Eating is an animal necessity we’ve made into an art,” she said. “We have to eat, but that creates an opportunity to make something memorable and infused with desire. It’s not just about eating. It’s about taking the time to taste. I wanted cooking on stage. I wanted the smells, I wanted people being fed — or denied food. I wanted food in the dance. The last scene is the messiest thing I’ve ever seen on stage.”


Molly Mingey eyes strawberries warily. Wild Space photo by Matt Schewenke.

Loewen’s all female cast (10 women, it just worked out that way) will don aprons for much of the show. Loewen derived some of the initial movement from the actions of cooking and serving, and then expanded on that.

“That material seeps into an abstract dance,” Loewen said. “You take raw material and you do something with it.”

That’s cooking, and choreography, too. Loewen is a fine and curious cook and a connoisseur of food writing. She has woven words about food into her sound score for Delicious. (Words can be delicious, too.) An account of a 43-course meal at El Bulli, a legendary restaurant in Spain, accompanies the placement of a dozen small delicacies on the body of a dancer — who then weaves and bends to consume them.

Loewen almost always encourages her dancers to improvise during the rehearsal process. She then curates the contributions and elaborates on them.

“I ask them questions, and their personalities come out,” she said. “So we have the naïf, the helper, the mother — roles emerge, a story filters through.”

Goetzinger got into the improvisational process. Loewen was looking for a certain element of surprise, but couldn’t quite put her finger on it. In one bit, each dancer consumes a strawberry. The chef, without telling anyone, laced them with especially hot wasabi.


Liz Fransee and Wild Space bring a new meaning to “tossed salad.” Wild Space photo by Matt Schewnke.

“The looks on their faces!” Loewen said. “It was so funny. Jennifer knows what I like, and I like surprise.”

The wasabi stayed in the show. The dancers know it’s coming, now, but it’s easy for them to react to it. In acting parlance, they have motivation.

Delicious, Loewen said, will be a small-plate meal, “more like a series of short stories than an epic novel.”

A kitchen-madness farce tops it off: A lively polka by dancers wielding full plates of food. Clean-up on Aisle 2.

“We rehearsed it with wadded-up paper,” Loewen said. “It looks a lot different with salad.”

The Dancers: Laura Murphy, Liz Herbst Fransee, Angela Frederick, Allison Kaminsky, Mandi Karr, Lindsey Krygowski, Molly Mingey, Kelly Radermacher, Jessie Mae Scibek, Yeng Vang-Strath, with chef Jennifer Getzinger. Jan Kellogg is the lighting designer and stage manager.

Show Info: Delicious begins at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 9-11, the Stiemke Theater in the Milwaukee Repertory Theater‘s complex, 144 E. Wells St. For the premium ticket price of $25, audience members can also enjoy a pre-show talk and demonstration at 7:15 pm., with chef Michelle Evans.

General admission, $20 ($18 for students and seniors), does not include the pre-show talk. Call the Milwaukee Repertory Theater box office,  414 224-9490, for tickets.

In conjunction with Delicious, Wild Space is partnering with Hunger Task Force for their community food drive. Audience members who bring a non-perishable food item will be entered into a free drawing for a dinner at a local restaurant.

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