“Food is everything,” said Anthony Bourdain, an endless source of inspiration for a writing foodie like myself. There is so much that comes up with women and food: food as love, our role as nurturing chefs & cooks & moms, providers of sustenance…Then there is food as enemy when we have allergies, Crohn’s, or celiac (which I might have); weight issues; the love vs hate of our bodies that eating brings out – self love, eating disorders, fat shaming and more. All these come up in my play, Butter, a play about food (and eating).
During the one-act play, three girlfriends meet for dinner in a restaurant but things quickly get out of control as food cravings and “ultra-sensitivities” clash. One of the women is very logical and OCD, an uber-organic, weight-obsessed yogi, the other is more passionate and impulsive. The chemistry of this ensemble of amazing actors (Martine Assaf, Eli Escobar, Christina Kostoulakos, Alyson Muzila and Cory Scott as cranky Kyle the Waiter) was palpable on the stage to the SRO audience at The Burren Backroom in Somerville, on October 16th.
My main goal for this comedy is of course to make people laugh. But I am also fueled by a desire to create roles for complex female protagonists on stage and on screen, featuring actresses that represent the diversity and beauty of real women. It’s very important to me that my stories, cast and crew represent this beautiful, true reality of the world I see around me. Jessica Chastain said after judging at Cannes last year: “…I do hope that when we include more female storytellers, we will have more of the women I recognize in my day to day life, those who are proactive, have their own agency, don’t just react to the men around them, they have their own point of view.”
Women are indeed multidimensional, and multi-faceted (like a diamond), not two dimensional (like a cartoon). For me, this “real reality” includes the diversity of women of all sizes, shapes, skin tones & orientations. #RealWomen #Realsizes #RealLife.
The format of the evening was different by design. After our hilarious opening act by the nationally renowned comedian Bethany Van Delft, the play itself is 30 minutes long, the same as a sitcom, followed by a talkback. The play just seemed to naturally morph into this 30 min web-series length. Perhaps we will two or more “episodes” on stage next time, each exploring the same topic. A web series would be an organic next step or short film as well.
During the talkback, we discussed the play and the issues the play brings up around eating and food: fat shaming, body love, denying cravings, eating out with allergies, etc. While the play was meant to be more experiential and emotional, for the talkback we encouraged a more intellectual discussion and exploration of food issues. Based on how many audience members had questions, participated, and contacted me after the talkback and since then, I’d say we have hit on a “hot” theme that we look forward to exploring in many different formats, including possibly at colleges and high schools. I would love to use the play as a medium for discussing the pressures kids of all genders via on social media around not being perfect and not having a perfect Instagrammable (fake) body or face. We could use a 10 minute version of the play, which I have or just a video of the play beforehand.
I am so excited to be a part of this and watching this march forward and could not have done it without the help of fellow WIFVNE member Alin Halajian. She did a, lifesaving job of managing the stage during the show and during tech week. She was an energetic assistant producer who found a fantastic photographer and sound person, Aaron Emmanuel, and videographer Cathy Ye (to whom we gifted a WIFVNE student membership).
Lessons learned? Character development: the extra touches and work definitely shows. We put more work into one character, on her backstory, stakes, wardrobe details, and I got the most comments and feedback on this character. From a production side: well, there is no such thing as too much help! ☺
Photography by Aaron Emmanuel
- Pictured from left Martine Assaf (Sara) and Alyson Muzilla (Sloane) eating pizza in the comedy Butter.
- Eli Escobar plays Cuban attorney Ivette who loves her Parisian bread!
- Pictured from left Christina Kostoulakos (Ava), Eli Escobar (Ivette), Martine Assaf (Sara) and Alyson Muzilla (Sloane)
- Pictured from left Cory Scott (Cranky Kyle the Waiter), Alin Halajian (Stage Manager, Asst Producer) Kimberly Rose (Writer, director, producer) and Christina Kostoulakos (Ava)