Social Potluck serves community with interactive theatre experience
University project partners with City to unite Glenmore neighbourhood
UBC graduate student Gabriel Newman is creating a community-specific show in Kelowna that mixes traditional storytelling and conceptual theatre with a smattering of interactive, home-cooked dinners.
As part of his Creative Studies master's degree thesis, Newman plays host, chef and actor in his multi-faceted storytelling project called Social Potluck. Newman is inviting an all-ages cross section of Glenmore residents to participate in five “intimate and casual” evening dinner conversations. He will glean material from the June dinners for an original work he will write, direct and perform for Social Potluck participants on July 15 and a public audience on July 16.
“Everyone is a performer with stories to tell,” says Newman, who is working toward his master’s degree in Performance at UBC’s Okanagan campus. “It is at the dinner table where we learn our family’s story, and where we test and hone our material. Our stories become our identity. Social Potluck celebrates the individual and the community’s ability to perform itself.”
Newman anticipates small, informal dinners in which guests supply a mix of stories -- from funny anecdotes and historical tales, to tragedies and inspirational life lessons -- told in a conventional, impromptu or spontaneous way.
“It is very much like you’re coming over to my house for dinner,” he says. “Like my guests, I will be both viewer and participant. Everyone has something to bring to the table. Together we will create a live, improvised show about our community.”
Food is a central theme in the project, as well as the item of barter for both the dinners and final performances. At no cost to his dinner guests, Newman serves home cooking using local ingredients.
“It’s a trade-off,” Newman says. “I provide a dinner, and guests provide me with a story.”
Social Potluck was created through a partnership between the University and the City of Kelowna to help foster sustainable community development.
"My thesis project uses ‘applied theatre’ to explore Glenmore’s identity and demonstrate its own cultural capital through personal storytelling,” Newman says. Glenmore acts as the “living laboratory” because of its rich diversity of generations and cultures.
Newman will document conversations at Social Potluck dinners on June 10, 11, 12, 17 and 18. Dinners start at 6:30 p.m. and take place in show-room space donated by the developers of the Bridges at Glenview Pond, on Glenview Avenue.
There is no cover charge for Newman’s staged performances (July 15 at 7 p.m. for Social Potluck dinner participants and their guests, and July 16 at 6 p.m. for Kelowna’s public audience). However, spectators are required to bring a food item to publicly share for a post-show potluck. Both performances take place at St. David’s Presbyterian Church, 271 Glenmore Road.
To join the list of prospective dinner guests/storytellers, community members are invited to contact Newman at 250-260-8757 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Gabriel Newman is best known locally for his Ghost Tours of Vernon. He has also created other local performances and storytelling projects such as Rumours of a House at the historic Caetani House and Farm Tales, Tall Tales and Other Yarns with the Okanagan Science Centre.
The Social Potluck project is one of three initiatives funded by sustainable community development internal grants form UBC.