Two Minneapolis theaters are spicing up their stages, and not just with slicing, dicing and shredding. There will also be some knife-throwing, fire-blowing and freestyle improvising. But only at one of them will let you sit down at a table setting.
We talked with two folks behind "Cookin'," which launches the Children's Theatre Company 2023-24 season, and Sod House Theater's "Table," which plays nine venues in Minnesota and Wisconsin this fall, about their shows and what audiences can expect.
What is it about? Also known as "Nanta" in Korean for the way one strikes a drum, "Cookin'" is a splashy, wacky import from South Korea, where it has been playing since 1997. In the show, four frenzied chefs try to prepare a wedding feast in an hour. They blow fire and mix martial arts as they slice and dice veggies to a score of traditional Korean drumming.
How did the idea arise? Strapped for cash, director Seung-Whan Song sought to make a production that could pull in an audience. And he wanted to do it around things that people loved: laughter, food and music. He also wanted the show to appeal to everyone, from kids to grandparents, so he made it wordless. "He didn't want to have a language barrier," said production supervisor Katherine Young Park.
Why is it different? Park likens "Cookin'" to long-running productions on Broadway, where the show had a limited run last year. "When you see it as a teen, you see it differently than when you see it in your 30s when you're a parent and want to share it with your children," she said.
What can audiences expect? An over-the-top experience. It's interactive so "get ready to clap your hands and stomp your feet," Park said.
Can you eat the food? Hmm, not recommended. There's real food up there, including the veggies. And the performers cook with soy sauce to infuse that flavor at the show. "But we don't use real beef," Park said, adding that the performers are actors, not chefs. To be clear, she added, "let's not eat those foods. I don't guarantee the taste."
What is it about? Sod House Theater has partnered with many notable Minnesota chefs for "Table," a production with a potentially delectable conceit. Each show is held at an outdoor site, usually a farm, where a chef prepares a multicourse meal. The servers are actors, 11 in all, who sing, dance and tell jokes. Sarah Agnew, a onetime mainstay at Theatre de la Jeune Lune, created the show that has music by Eric Jensen and is choreographed by Kimberly Richardson.
"It's a lovely meal served outdoors by some of the most entertaining servers you've ever encountered," said Agnew said.
How did the idea arise? This piece was developed as a companion to "Farm," a show that Sod House founders Luverne Seifert and Darcey Engen created. Both shows shed light on the sources of our food. But "Table" is different in that "you're sharing a meal with strangers and friends," Agnew said. "We've got excellent chefs from all over Minnesota offering all kinds of cuisine. At one point in the evening, we invite the chef out to talk about their food stories."
What's so different and new? "It's totally irreverent with a lot of improvisation. And the choreography, by Kimberly Richardson, is singular," Agnew said.
What can audiences expect? "Great food and terrific entertainment. The characters that these women have developed are very moving and smart. We have two millennials, Abby and Gabby, who're always on their phones. Another character does this amazing monologue about the history of the potato, the hero crop that revolutionized the way we farm. My character is Bev, and that's not short for Beverly but beverage. She loves to give service and sometimes she loves to be serviced. Her side gig is working as a mermaid at the Renaissance Fair. And she loves to help folks with their makeup."
Can you eat the food? Abso-yucking-lutely.
Where: Children's Theatre Company, 2400 3rd Av. S., Mpls.
When: 7 p.m. Tue.-Fri., 2 & 7 p.m. Sat., 2 & 5 p.m. Sun. Ends Oct. 22.
Tickets: $15-$72. 612-874-0400 or childrenstheatre.org.)
Where: Various farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
When: Through Oct. 1.
Tickets: $40-$80. 612-414-2032 or sodhousetheater.org.