There are countless ways to tell the stories of Chicago’s immigrant communities through food. I’ve spent the past 20 years meeting cooks and bakers and butchers, hearing about some of the challenges – and joys – of feeding their own communities. But I hadn’t seen anything on the subject of food quite like the brave, confident performances from a group of high school students, currently going on at The Goodman Theatre.
Feast is a series of stories, assembled, written and performed by young actors from the Albany Park Theater Project, a multi-ethnic ensemble, dedicated to producing original work inspired by immigrants whose stories are rarely told. It’s a revival of a play they put on five years ago, but now has been re-staged in the Goodman’s Owen theater in-the-round. The teens conducted more than two dozen interviews within their community, creating a 90-minute piece that explores food’s role in nourishing individuals and communities.
In one moving piece, three girls – each from a very different household – talk about dealing with issues like food stamps. For one of them, the internal struggle of what it means to pull out a Link card at the Jewel, when your parents would rather shop at Aldi, while another fantasizes about all of the delicious-sounding items in a typical grocery aisle. I’ve never seen young actors address issues such as dealing with the peer pressure, and stigma, that goes along with accepting food stamps, and yet each of these stories comes from someone’s life, right here in our own backyard.
Some pieces take on a “Stomp” vibe, with music and dance, while others – like a moving tribute to a halal butcher’s ancestors, and how his Lebanese father made a life in Chicago – ring true as you imagine strolling down Devon, Lawrence or Western Ave. In one of the final stories, a poignant tribute (and song) to the pleasures of mole – one of the most common sauces in Mexico, and yet, a recipe that defines family lines and brings everyone closer together.
Performances of Feast run Thursday – Sunday through August 16th. Tickets available at GoodmanTheatre.org/Feast or at 312-443-3800.