Dinner: A Romance in Four Courses

Dinner: A Romance in Four Courses

Have you ever been slapped with a pork chop?

Apparently, this is a possibility in Dinner: A Romance in Four Courses, a collaboration between NoExit Performance and the restaurant Mesh on Mass. This intimate performance and four course dinner (with wine pairings) is produced by NoExit Performance and hosted by Mesh on Mass Ave.

 “Our ‘stage’ is a table and two chairs situated at the middle of the dining room. ” says Lukas Schooler, executive director of NoExit. “The performance occurs just a few feet away from our guests.” 

Schooler worked at Mesh for almost five years, giving him insight into how the venue could accommodate his idea. 
“What the guests at Dinner will see is a single performance piece that incorporates theater, dance, and live music to portray a Date Night gone bizarrely awry,” adds Lauren Curry, the event’s choreographer. “The principal performers are local movement artists Bethany Bak and Heidi Keller Philips.” 
 
There will be a supporting cast of waiters-turned-henchmen and a loopy walking violinist played by Anna Hassler. The principal performers will be dining alongside the guests (but at their own table). They will be served and eat the same food at the same time as the guests. At times, they will use the food to communicate with each other. 

This is where the pork chop slaps come in.

This blending of theater and pork chop first occurred to Schooler in college. “I first began percolating on a performance based in a restaurant, responding to the natural choreography that exists within a restaurant — between servers and cooks, trays of food gliding through the air, the occasional guest unknowingly interrupting the flow of the fast-paced choreography, the focused trance of a server transporting champagne flutes through a bustling dining room. It wasn’t until I began working with NoExit that I found an opportunity to fully explore these concepts. Beyond all this, the culinary arts have always been ingrained in American culture, but little collaboration exists with other art forms. This isn’t dinner theater — this is dinner as theater.”

 This is its third time the event has been held, but none is alike. “Every iteration has been created by a different collaborative team and every team has approached the concept in a wildly new way. This was largely the intent behind the concept — what happens when you give different artists the same set of loose, but unique boundaries? It’s quite wonderful to be able to be the mediator in these processes — to really just let the artists take the boundaries and make them their own,” Schooler says. 

Curry emphasizes just how exclusive each performance is. “NoExit Performance has created a unique opportunity for Indy choreographers to collaborate with chefs. I told Chef Travis Hitch the tone of the first section, what the actors would be doing. He’s going to take that information and create a custom dish for that section. That kind of high-concept cross-pollination is very innovative and rarely done in an art market of Indy’s size.”

“Lauren is taking the most theatrical approach to this concept — really looking at the act of dining in a restaurant and the culture that exists within the restaurant between the diners, the staff, the furniture, the utensils, and the food. Yes, there is romance somewhere in there, but that’s not necessarily the total focus.” 

“My particular vision was to present a dining experience turned on its head. To imagine what it would be like if some of the things we think at dinner but don’t say were put on full display,” Curry says. 

Pork chop fight? 

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Print edition copy editor; calendar and theater critic