Monday, July 18, 2011
The dinners were a real treat. I felt honoured to be able to break bread with such generous and supportive people who had amazing tales to tell. I have a great job.
The finale was filled with such good wishes and support for myself and for each other. I hate to admit it but the show almost feels irrelevant, that just getting back together is enough, the show is simple the excuse.
The following night I performed the same show to an audience that hadn't participated. There was a strange mix of friends, colleagues and strangers. People brought their moms and their kids. It was a full house and some chairs needed to be added at the last minute. Most people didn't mind not having been at the dinners, they liked the surprise aspect of the stories, nothing was familiar. I thought this was interesting. Both evenings had a different feel.
In the end I could tell that people wished they could have stayed and heard more stories from each other. I will have to see how I can facilitate that in the future.
Below are a few pictures taken of one of the dinners I hosted at the Bridges at Glenview Pond development. The pictures were taken by Kate Mahaits Photography.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
On July 16th, for one night only, a very unique dinner theatre event will be taking place in the Glenmore neighbourhood of Kelowna. How is it unique? It is a potluck dinner show all about the people who live in Glenmore.
The show is a culmination of months of work where storyteller Gabriel Newman explored the community of Glenmore through its stories. In June, Newman hosted four intimate dinners at the Bridges at Glenview Pond development where guests told him a story in exchange for a meal. “We had an amazing mix of stories taking place not only in Kelowna but around the world,” says Newman who will perform to those guests at a private show on the fifteenth before presenting it to the general public on the sixteenth.
Cost to attend the July sixteenth show is free but guests are asked to bring an item of food to share as there will be a giant potluck dinner as part of the show. “”I love the metaphor of the potluck, says Newman who adds, “Thomas King said “"The truth about stories is, that's all we are." I believe that follows through to the communities we live in. Which stories we choose to tell becomes what we offer to the cultural potluck table of our community.”
Newman created Social Potluck as his thesis project to fulfill the requirements of a Master’s of Fine Arts degree at UBC Okanagan’s Performance Program. “I have been working as a performer and a story teller for the past fifteen years but I wasn’t satisfied with the work I was doing. I was convinced that there had to be a different way of working that was sustainable and provide a truly live and relevant experience. That is why I went back to school to complete my masters; to figure out a new structure. The fact that I have been able to work my love of food and storytelling into this project is a bonus,” laughs Newman who lives and works in Vernon.
This is the second time he has conducted a Social Potluck project, the first time was earlier this spring in Vernon.
The Glenmore Social Potluck project is one of three projects sponsored through an innovative partnership between the University of British Columbia and the City of Kelowna to help foster sustainable community development. Social Potluck is unique in that it is the only project that contributes directly to building social sustainability and social capital in the community. “We are empathetic creatures and we build community through storytelling whether it is at the table or on stage. Glenmore has a vibrant culture, we just need to stop every once in a while and listen to it,” says Newman who is grateful for the opportunity to demonstrate the practical nature of “applied theatre.”
The performance will take place at St. David’s Presbyterian at 6:00 PM. There are only fifty seats available so guests must make reservations if they wish to attend. There will be no tickets available at the door. Contact Newman at 250-260-8757 or email@example.com to reserve a space.
To learn more and to see a video of the previous Social Potluck click here.
Graduate student, Performance/Theatre, Creative Studies
The University of British Columbia, Okanagan campus
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Everyone who attended the dinners brought great stories but they also brought a great ability to listen.
Special thanks has to go to the crew at the Bridges at Glenview Pond who so willingly allowed me to wander into their showhome and start cooking. I kept getting asked, "how did you get permission to use this house!!!!" and all I can reply is that I asked. That isn't even the truth, after searching Glenmore unsuccessfully for weeks I pretty much staggered defeated into their sales office and told them what I was doing and how I couldn't find a place to hold my dinners. Their response was a casual, "go take a look at the blue or green house and see if they would work." Incredible! I'm sure I was an inconvenience to them but you couldn't tell. To top it off, at the end of every evening at around ten PM I called up Joe, who I don't think I ever met, to tell him I was leaving and so that he would have to leave whatever he was doing and come to lock up the house after I left.
Another thank you to DeBakkers who donated bread to every evening. Glenmore is lucky to have such a tasty bakery.
So now I am back in the rehearsal hall trying to figure out how to arrange the show. July 15th is the deadline for the performance for that is when all the participants and their guests will show up.
If you want to attend the show but weren't a participant there will be a show available for the public on July 16th. Seating is limited so reservations are essential.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
I am making rhubarb chutney and am curious to see how that works with the cheeses I bought. DeBakkers has donated some of their amazing crusty bread. I'll be making a Hungarian Paprikas and salad. For dessert I'm breaking out the ice cream maker. Tonight is the first time I will be cooking in this location so I am interested to see what I have forgotten.
The guest list is set and I know it will be a fascinating night of stories.
Friday, May 27, 2011
before you go looking around I will describe what is going to happen this June and July in Glenmore should you sign up to take part. First, I will draw names out of a hat to determine who will attend which of the five small dinners taking place on June 10, 11, 12, 17 and 18 at one of the Bridges at Glenview Pond show homes. I will be cooking and hosting. Attending is free but everyone who comes is expected to share a story, that is the payment. If you can't make a certain night let me know.
I will record all the stories. After the five small dinners are complete I will go into the studio and create a performance piece inspired by the stories. I will share that performance with everyone who attended the small dinners and the one guest they are welcome to bring. There is no cost to attend this performance which will take place at St. David's Presbyterian on July 15th however they are asked to bring an item of food to share as it will be a giant potluck.
To sign up simply call me at 250-260-8675 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
For five evenings in May, 2011 I will cook dinner for participants in exchange for a story. Those stories will be turned into a performance which those participants can attend with a guest for free as long as they bring an item to share for our giant final performance/potluck.
Dates and locations to be determined.
I am currently accepting names of interested participants.
Observations so far...
Glenmore is a large area. Using the official city map Glenmore is a sprawling area which travels from "Old Glenmore" near downtown, which is what most locals call Glenmore, north to Lake Okanagan and along Glenmore Rd. until Scenic Rd. on the right and Begbie Rd. on the left, and East to where Scenic Rd. becomes Sexsmith.
From what I can tell Glenmore is for the most part a place to have a residence. There are two small malls, one pub, a handful of take out restaurants and a few sit down restaurants. There are no civic community buildings or organizations that I can find. Churches and schools fill the role of being community centres, renting spaces to groups for events. There are numerous parks.
There are a number of large farms on the outskirts supplying fruit and vegetables.
I look forward to hearing the stories of the people who live here.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
There were a few wonderful unplanned moments. There were great moments when someone gave away that the story I was telling was theirs. Suddenly that story was even more interesting as people started to watch this person's reactions to their own story. Sometimes the guests saved my skin. The most memorable instance was the lady who pulled a twelve foot three prong extension cord out of her purse so I could plug in my electric burner (I had brought a two prong cord and never checked). It was a team effort. I was just there to let others shine.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the food. Oh my, was there ever a lot of food. Next time I need more tables and plugs. Not only was there a lot of food brought but there was a lot of food consumed. There were only scraps left by the end of the evening but I can assure you nobody left hungry. I should add that I gave no direction as to what kind of food to bring just like I gave no direction as to what kind of story to tell and once again the participants delivered with an amazing variety of food. There was enough mains and dessert. Because the food was so great and because I heard people asking about recipes I have added a recipe/story exchange to the webpage so people can share their recipes.
Looking through the questionnaire responses I noticed many people remarked on the sense of community that was created through this project and I am beside myself happy that they felt that way. When I had initially conceiving of this idea I debated if a final performance was necessary. The small dinners were fantastic and so intimate and moving. I knew I could not recreate that in performance but simply by having a performance it allowed people an opportunity to gather again and be reunited. It also allowed for a glimpse of what kind of stories other dinners told. These guests all shared a similar experience even if they were at another dinner. A community was born based on shared experience. Judging by how much conversation there was in the lulls, the breaks and afterwords I think most people would agree with me.
My performance was intended to be a celebration of people who came to the table. I still wish I could have told or acknowledged more stories. As it was, only about thirty percent of the stories told at the small dinners made it to the final performance. This was not an issue of merit as every story could have been its own show. My goal for further editions is to increase the representation in the performance without increasing the length of the event. Two hours, including eating, is perfect, especially since I want to allow people the opportunity to stay after the show to eat and talk more.
It is over a week since this event took place and I am still amazed at the good will exhibited by the participants. There were so many generous, kind and interesting people involved that I feel truly blessed to have been able to meet everyone of them. While I have created this project to bring people together to celebrate the role of the table and stories in our community and our lives I feel that it is I who is benefiting the most. For that, all I can say is "thank you."
Thursday, March 17, 2011
It has been a fascinating few weeks as I have been attempting to figure out what I am going to do with all the great stories I have collected. There is so much material, so many interesting anecdotes, thoughts, ideas, images and gestures. I listened to all the recordings and took down copious notes.
I tried to find themes, common topics and ideas.
Then I threw out everything I thought I was going to do. I realized that I was trying to force an idea on the show. Before we began I thought about using the perspective of an alien to "interpret" the stories but it was a gimmick and not necessarily true to the piece. I had to figure out what the whole piece, the whole structure (as I am also creating a structure that needs to be replicated), the whole Social Potluck project is "about." This is not easy. You would think it is but it isn't.
I have gone back to the drawing board and rather than force a show out of the material I have focussed on what the whole project is about. Now that I think I know what that is (I'm not telling-it is my secret. I'll be interested what spectators think it is about) I am back to creating categories, groups, etc… that reinforce the goal of the perspective. In class we discussed creating our "sandbox," which is the set of rules we work by, and I am really happy with my sandbox. Now I just need to fill it.
I have arranged for the Vernon Community Music School to donate the use of their loft to the project in exchange for me MCing their fund-raising concert. It was an excellent show and I was glad to help. I was also glad to have their beautiful space.
April 3rd is the date booked and now I am in a mad rush to create my set pieces, props and rehearse the show. This is the disadvantage of being a one person organization. I would rather write this blog than do the work I need to do, and there is a lot of work to do.
I am rehearsing whenever I can. I still have classes, lambs to deliver and a life to live but it is coming together. I will be interested to see what happens the next time I create this project as I won't have to recreate the structure, just the content. Presently everything feels a little overwhelming.
Two and a half weeks to go. I'll let you know how things turn out.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Photo from Morning Star online
Local actor, writer and academic Gabe Newman invites the
public to his table to share their stories in the Social Potluck.
"The dinner table (or family/communal eating venue) is the most important performance venue in the world..." A great meal in exchange for stories becomes fodder for Gabriel, who is working on his master's thesis in performance art at UBC Okanagan, with Social Potluck as his thesis. Gabriel will share this story while in the midst of this study of exchanging cooking for stories. "Everyone has something to bring to the table..." so bring your brown bag lunch! Check out Gabriel's blogspot at http://socialpotluck.blogspot.com/
The Kalamalka Speakers Series has been organized to bring Okanagan College and the Vernon community together to participate in and enjoy informal talks presented by Okanagan College instructors, former instructors, students, and community members.
All Welcome to this free event ~ Free parking during the presentation
For more information please contact Okanagan College's Kalamalka Campus Library
250-545-7291 Local 2247
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Gulyas (Goulash or stew). It is Hungarian comfort food, at least it is for me. I did add some red cabbage for colour.recipe that makes a very tasty and aesthetically pleasing loaf.
Happy Days Goat Dairy's soft cheese, Village Cheese's Hot Pepper Cheddar, Triple Island's Gouda and Dutchman Dairy's Aged Cheddar. The cracker's weren't local I'm afraid but I did want to highlight some of the fantastic cheese that is produced around here because... well, because I like cheese.
Friday, January 28, 2011
On January 23rd, 2011 Social Potluck conducted its first dinner. It was a pre-test test with colleagues and friends; a dress rehearsal of sorts. The objective was to try out cooking in a new location, test the receptiveness of the food and to see if the format of the evening works for both myself and the guests. While there are things I will change as far as how the evening runs (like finish cooking before the guests arrive) the overall conclusion is that these dinners are a wonderful, entertaining and enlightening way to spend an evening.
I almost, almost, felt guilty doing these dinners as part of my thesis project because I enjoyed myself so much. While I was admittedly a little unorganized and distracted since it is hard to cook, serve and run the evening I couldn't help but notice how natural the gathering felt. At first the guests were a little nervous but that was quickly overcome once the first brave soul said, "I'll start because I'm nervous and I'll only feel more nervous if I have to wait to tell me story." After that first story the group felt like a bunch of old friends that were genuinely curious about each other. I am always amazed what can happen when someone puts themselves out there and takes a risk.
The stories that were told were incredibly varied; there were near death experiences, stories of coincidence, ineptitude, awakening and brushes with fame. Afterwards, I had to wonder if they were all true because they were all so… incredible and different, I guess, than my own experience even though I could see myself in most of those stories.
The most frequent question I get with this project is, "What kind of story do you want?" After this first dinner I'm realizing that the answer has always been, "What kind of story do you want to tell?" because I am not looking for a particular story. I have other projects in mind where I want to explore one idea or topic but for this project I am wondering what kind of story will people tell when they can decide the topic. Usually, when I am creating a project I will interview people looking for a particular story. Essentially, I am asking for people to "tell me the story I want to hear."This is quite typical as it is how our news, entertainment and anthropology functions. Rarely is the the question asked of the interviewee, "What story do you want to tell?"
On January 29th I will host the first official dinner. I am very excited to hear the stories that people want to tell.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Hello and welcome to the Social Potluck blog. I'm guessing you have heard about this project and either want to join up or would like some more information before signing up. That is completely understandable. If you want to sign up simply send me an email at email@example.com stating that you would like to add your name to the list of possible participants. On Friday January 21st I will put all the names in a hat and draw out the guest lists for the dinners. If your name has been selected I will contact you with the date and location for the dinner. I will also then send you a consent form so you are up to speed on what will happen. If you aren't selected don't worry as I will be doing the project again later in the spring so there will be another chance.
If you want more information the following blog posts will give a pretty thorough description of the project up to this point. I'd recommend starting from the oldest and working backwards.
If you don't want the in-depth description here is the Coles notes version of the project and what it means to you.
Gabriel Newman is a storyteller, actor, director and writer who lives in Vernon British Columbia. He has created numerous storytelling events in Vernon such as Ghost Tours of Vernon and Farm Tales, Tall Tales and Other Yarns as well as theatrical events such as Rumours of a House which took place at and about Vernon's Caetani House. He is currently completing his MFA in performance at UBC. Social Potluck is his thesis project.
The philosophy of Social Potluck is that the dinner table is the most important performance venue we have as a society and that everyone has something to bring to the table. So in order to explore that I will be conducting a Social Potluck project which will combine local food and stories into a theatrical production.
On the evenings of January 29th and 30th as well as February 4th, 5th and 6th at 6:30 pm I will be hosting dinners for 5-10 people (this is where you come in). The dinner doesn't cost anything but participants must be prepared to share a story (preferably a story you tell often, if you can't think of what that is just ask your family, they'll know. If you are still stuck don't worry something will come to you while you listen to others) with the rest of the diners. Before the meal starts we will take turns sharing our stories (which I will record as my memory isn't very good). Afterward we will eat and talk. No pressure.
After all the dinners are completed I will take all those stories as well as whatever occurred while we ate (what I can remember) and I will try to create a theatrical performance which will be performed in late March/early April. If you took part in a dinner then you are welcome to attend free of charge but you must bring some food to share as well will have a big potluck at the end of the performance.
So there you have it. It is free, it is fun, it will be tasty, local and about you. Well, to be completely honest I can't guarantee what I land up using for the final performance as there will be around 25-50 stories told, not to mention everything that is discussed after the meals are over. I may not tell your story, or I may combine it with other stories or I may change it. I don't know so you need to be willing to have your story be used as inspiration for artistic creativity.
Aha! The dinners will be in a secret location which will be disclosed when your name is selected. The dinners will be held in a non traditional space but don't worry it will be homey and comfortable.
Dinners are held on the evenings of January 29th and 30th as well as February 4th, 5th and 6th at 6:30. The final performance will be held late March/early April at a yet undisclosed location (let me know if you know of one I can have for free).
Because it will be a chance to eat good local food while talking to interesting strangers who live in your home town all while contributing to a theatrical performance. You may never think of dinner parties the same way.
Free, this project is based on barter. You are paying me for the meal with your story because your story has value to me. Later when I perform for you, you will pay me by bringing food for everyone to share. I think it is a fair trade and I hope you do to.
To Sign Up?
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up or if you have further questions.
If these do not answer your questions please send me an email.
Is it really free? Is this some kind of sales seminar or other recruitment? Yes, it is free, no, it is not a sales pitch. The only message is that I hope by the end participants appreciate how important the dinner table is to our culture, identity and health. This is taught not by lecture but by participating.
I can't make a few of the dates, will this rule me out? No, but it reduces your chances of being picked. Let me know in your email what dates you can or cannot make.
Are children welcome to participate? Yes, as long as they are accompanied by an adult. I will hold one or two dinners where kids are welcome depending on how many are interested. If you would like to attend with a minor please indicate in your email.
Can I bring a friend/spouse with me? Sorry, these dinners are small and I want to increase the chance of participants being strangers so we spend time with people we don't usually spend time with. With only 5-10 people at the table two couples would completely change the dynamics. The exception being minors. Your spouse or friend can sign up separately however. Maybe they'll be at the same meal, maybe they won't. That would be fun, to compare the dinner experiences.
Can I host a social potluck dinner of my own? Absolutely!
I can't think of a story to tell, should I not sign up? By all means SIGN UP! Nobody can think of a story when asked point blank. Ask the people you know if there are certain stories you tell a lot, or find touching. Ask your friends what they would tell, that might give you ideas. Think of scary or beautiful moments in your life. If you still can't think of any and you are signed up come anyway. I guarantee that after listening to other people tell their stories that it will remind you of a story (I've been to lots of storytelling circles and it is always the people who say they don't have any stories who come up with the best material). Also, you can tell any kind of story. If you have completely drawn a blank, tell Little Red Riding Hood. It doesn't matter.
I'm not a good storyteller but I want to come anyway. Can I? This isn't a competition, you are not being judged on content or performance. Leave that for "Are You a Storyteller?" Everyone is in the same boat.
Who is catering the dinner? I am. I'm cooking everything for the meal from scratch. It is my way of thanking you for taking the time to participate.
Are you a trained chef? No, cooking is not my profession though it seems like I spend most of my time in the kitchen. I love cooking, it is my hobby and what I have been doing for my family for the past fourteen years. While not trained officially my mother is a trained chef and I have worked in numerous professional kitchens. I do have my Food Safe certificate so you are safe with me. Dinner will be good home cooking with a few fancy touches but nothing crazy.
I have food allergies or foods I cannot eat. How flexible is the menu? Please let me know immediately in your email if there are food concerns as I can't do last minute changes but I can prepare ahead of time. I know how serious allergies can be. There will be options for vegetarians and omnivores but remember that I am cooking as though you are coming to my house so a little flexibility might be needed.