Our next production, Oh My Sweet Land, is a unique production that will be taking place in home kitchens and community spaces throughout the five boroughs. How is this possible to execute? We sat down with the production’s Line Producer, Lucy Jackson, to discuss the process of bringing intimate stories into private spaces, the challenges of site-specific theatre, and her mom’s tagliatelle carbonara.
What is your role as Line Producer?
For this production, my role as a Line Producer is to connect with people who are interested in offering their homes or community centers for performances of the show. I make contact with them, talk to them about the show, answer any questions they have, and set up site visits to their kitchens with our team members. We figure out dates for them to host the show, and then I’ll act as a liaison between PlayCo, the creative and production teams, and the people who are very kindly inviting us into their homes and spaces.
In general, I see line producing as a problem-solving role. I’m often the person on the ground figuring stuff out with the production manager and the team. It’s something I really enjoy doing.
Can you talk about what makes producing Oh My Sweet Land, a site-specific piece, so unique from other productions you have worked on?
The main thing is obviously the cooking aspect of the show, which is a large focus of our preparation. There are practical elements of the performance that we need to think about that relate to food. This is then combined with the need to move into a different playing space every performance. There’s also the personal relationship side of it. We are going into people’s kitchens and homes, which are normally mostly private spaces. It’s their personal space, and with that comes a different type of care that you need to take.
I really love this kind of work because it makes you think about the connection that you’re making between the performance and the audience. It allows people to relate to the art in a totally different way than they might be used to. Obviously the intimacy is a huge bonus of this particular piece; I like to put people as close as possible to the art and to the experience, and allow them to think about their role in relation to it.
What has been the general response you have gotten from asking people to open their homes to this production?
People have been so up for it; it’s been really great. There’s been so much openness. People have welcomed us into their homes. One host even provided breakfast croissants for us when we visited. People are just very interested in the material of the play, the subject matter of the play. I think it’s something that has reached a lot of people and touched a nerve, and being able to host an important story in your home is very appealing. We’ve got a lot of messages saying, “This seems like a story that really needs to get out there,” and people are very happy to help. We go into homes and people say, “Oh don’t worry you can move my furniture wherever you want, whatever you need.” It’s been a lovely reminder that all the strangers that you sit across from on the subway are just waiting for an excuse to invite you into their house.
Can you talk about an unexpected challenge with this process?
I never thought about how kitchens are laid out in such detail before, and where the kitchen is placed within a home. It’s really rather interesting. It’s got me thinking more about how the kitchen is kind of a hearth: now that we don’t have fireplaces so much, we still have living rooms, but the kitchen is where the stove is and there is reason the party always ends up in the kitchen. So it’s that communal space; it’s like a nurturing space. And something everyone does is cook and eat and its really interesting how people choose – or don’t choose because they are renting and have no choice – to have their kitchen laid out. I guess I also didn’t realize how different people’s fridges are. I never thought I would be concerned about whether someone’s fridge door opens from the left or from the right.
Traveling throughout the five boroughs and not being a native New Yorker yourself, what has surprised you about the city?
I am encouraged by the diversities within areas. I think I expected the communities that we were visiting to be more stratified. It’s been interesting walking through the different parts of town. There was one day when we started in Long Island City and essentially went down the G line for the whole day, visiting homes. And it was quite lovely to watch the landscape change in terms of style and makeup and think about historically why they might have been like that. Watching the architecture change is fascinating. It’s nice because often when I travel around the city, I spend most of my time underground or within a mile radius of regular haunts.
Oh My Sweet Land is a play about connecting to culture through food. Is there a recipe you rely on to bring you closer to home?
British food is traditionally terrible. It’s not true so much anymore; we have our own celebrity chefs now and everything, yet the stereotype persists. My mother makes a great tagliatelle carbonara and she also makes a cake called crumb cake. It’s her mother’s recipe and that’s kind of our family cake. But tagliatelle carbonara is what she always makes me when I visit home, as my first meal off the plane. It’s the best comfort food ever. I’ve never been able to replicate the way she makes it; I make my own version. The other thing is another family-history-type thing. One of my grandmothers is Icelandic and the other one is Hungarian, so we’ve mostly done Christmas on Christmas Eve in the European tradition. And there’s this dish that Icelanders eat on Christmas Eve, a kind of smoked lamb, and our Icelandic cousins send us over the lamb so that we can make the dish. Back in the day when my grandmother moved to the UK she created her own version of it, and that became our traditional family meal.