Catasauqua Press

Wednesday, November 20, 2019
Mary Wright’s “Kitchen Chronicles,” 7 pm. Oct. 6, 7, PBS 39, Bethlehem. Mary Wright’s “Kitchen Chronicles,” 7 pm. Oct. 6, 7, PBS 39, Bethlehem.

Cook with ‘Kitchen Chronicles’ at PBS 39 Studio, SteelStacks

Thursday, October 3, 2019 by The Press in Focus

An original theatrical piece created by Mary Wright of Bethlehem aims to bring people together in the kitchen to discover how much they have in common.

“Kitchen Chronicles” will be presented Oct. 6 and 7 in the PBS show kitchen at the PBS 39 building at SteelStacks.

The performances are part of Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound, a 10-day artistic community convergence featuring more than 20 free and ticketed events, Oct. 4-13.

“It’s not just about food. It’s about heritage. It’s about memory. It’s about bringing people together at a community table,” says Wright, a Touchstone Theatre ensemble member, about “Kitchen Chronicles.”

“When we sit down and eat together, a different kind of conversation happens,” Wright says.

The show will be part cooking demonstration, part performance, part fellowship. It aims to blur the line between audience and performer.

Wright will lead the event.

“Imagine I invited you all over to my house and I just happened to have a TV show worthy kitchen in it,” she says.

Wright will tell stories about her life in the kitchen and try to illicit stories from audience members. The idea is to share wisdom gleaned from time spent in the kitchen.

Wright will demonstrate how to make pizza dough from scratch, and talk about her grandma’s secret to great baking. The dough will be turned into a dessert pizza with apple pie filling and oatmeal crumble. Show-goers will get to try it.

During the event, Wright’s husband Ben and the couple’s friend, “Binomia” Bill Schacter, will play guitar and sing songs.

“At my house when friends get together, we often pull out guitars. We enjoy making music as much as we enjoy cooking and making memories,” Wright says.

The work fits into the Festival Unbound theme of uniting diverse communities and finding the sacred in the ordinary, “all of these overlooked things in life that when you take the time to stop and notice and pay attention you see how important they are,” says Wright.

Wright got the idea for “Kitchen Chronicles” from a workshop she did with Jay O’Callahan, a master storyteller. He told participants to visualize a kitchen they know well and to latch onto a kitchen implement. They explored the backstory of the kitchen and wrote monologues on the history of the kitchen implement.

“The things we talk about in a kitchen. The kinds of conversations we have. Some of the most important things that happened to me in life happened in a kitchen,” she says.

To prepare for the piece, Wright first gathered stories, a common way that Touchstone Theatre begins many of its pieces. She interviewed people about their memories of time spent in the kitchen, how they learned to cook, what they loved about it, and why eating together is important.

She gathered 24 hours of interviews with in the Lehigh Valley and around the world, including the head butler of Christ Church, Oxford, England, which houses the famous 16th century hall used as a model for the dining hall in the “Harry Potter” movies.

People started inviting Wright into their kitchens. She brought early renditions of “Kitchen Chronicles” to eight homes.

“Somebody opening up their kitchen to you is an honor,” she says. “Kitchens are the most intimate parts of a family home. It really is the heart of the home.”

While the people in the private homes knew each other, they learned a lot about each other that they didn’t know, Wright says.

Of how the event ties into Festival UnBound, Wright says, “The foods we eat may be different. We may like to cook or not like to cook. But we all eat and somebody is making the food for us. By having everyone at a common table, it’s a way of reminding us of our commonalities. The things that tie us together.

“I really want to see what happens when you get people and food in a kitchen-like setting and how that creates community.”

“Kitchen Chronicles” is sponsored by PBS 39 and Morris Black Designs.

“Kitchen Chronicles,” 7 p.m. Oct. 6, 7, PBS show kitchen, PBS 39 building, 839 Sesame St., SteelStacks, Bethlehem. festivalunboundcom; Touchstone Theatre Box Office, 610-867-1689