For 10 years now, Westporters have played with their food.
Nancy Diamond and Carole Schweid couldn’t be happier.
The women are co-founders of a decade-long lunchtime program — the deliciously named Play With Your Food — that combines a gourmet lunch, professional readings of intriguing plays, and a stimulating post-performance discussion.
After a quick but entertaining and challenging 90 minutes, it’s back to work for everyone.
As with most off-the-wall or why-didn’t-I-think-of-that ideas, “Play With Your Food” developed casually. Nancy and Carole were young mothers serving together on the PTA Cultural Arts Committee. They discovered a shared desire to do something theater-related that would bring people together during the winter.
And they both loved food.
They knew Westport is a community that supports the arts, has good restaurants — and a pool of professional actors who love challenges.
The challenge was finding one-act plays equal to their vision.
To find good material, Nancy and Carole read a lot. They travel to one-act festivals around the country. They prowl book fairs and libraries. Now — with Play With Your Food a firm fixture on the local arts scene — people send suggestions to them.
The plays range from comedies and romances to mysteries and musicals, from classics to unpublished works. Despite the wide variety, all share one element: The audience must leave in an uplifted mood.
The appeal of Play With Your Food, Nancy says, is broad: “lunch, a social connection with others, and intellectual or emotional stimulation.”
Plus, Carole adds, “You don’t have to travel. This is all home-grown.”
Carole chooses 3 plays — 10 to 20 minutes each — for every program. (The series runs from January through April.) They may be short, she says, but “not light or fluffy.”
In the beginning, most plays were “middle of the road,” Carole says. Now, “some are a little more challenging to the audience.” And the post-play discussions have become a bit deeper and more insightful.
Over 10 years, there must have been some flops. Right?
The women laugh. “Truly, no,” Nancy says. “Some plays are not as strong as others, but no one has ever walked out saying they wished they’d gone to the diner.”
Ah, dining. The restaurants that cater — a different one each month — are as varied as the plays themselves: Bobby Q’s. Blue Lemon. Da Pietro. Matsu Sushi.
“We like surprising audiences with little jewels of plays,” Nancy says. “And there are culinary surprises too. The food is very good — this is not tuna fish and potato chips.”
Next month, Play With Your Food celebrates its 10-year anniversary with a gala celebration. “Two for the Road” is set for Saturday, January 28 at Dragone Classic Motorcar Company. There will be catering from more than 20 great restaurants, followed by a “rousing show” created by Carole.
Professional actors will perform scenes from “My Fair Lady,” “42nd Street,” “Mack & Mabel” and Play With Your Food comedy favorites.
The event will celebrate a decade of success — and provide financial support for the series to continue.
“We can’t believe it’s been 10 years!” Nancy marvels. “Carole and I had young kids when we started. Now they’re all out of the house.”
So, back then, who came up with the spectacularly clever name “Play With Your Food”?
Nancy and Carole can’t quite remember.
But they do know this: “When something’s right, it’s right. We want to help people smile with our food and plays. And the name does, too.”(For ticket information on the January 28 celebration, click here or call 203-293-8831. Play With Your Food’s 10th season begins at noon on January 10, 11 and 12 at Toquet Hall.
Play with Your Food begins its season in Fairfield at the Fairfield Theatre Company, 70 Sanford Street, on Tuesdays, January 17th, February 14th, March 13th and April 3th. Lunch will be provided by The Dressing Room, Layla’s, Tuckers and The Pantry.Tickets, $43, can be ordered online at http://www.jibproductions.org or by calling the box office at 203.293.8831 (Mon – Fri, 10am – 4pm). Advanced reservations are required.