Food for the Gods: A Multimedia Experience

By: Megan Beauchamp
Screen Shot 2018-11-19 at 11.51.17 PM
Photos by Theo Cote
Walking into the theatre space at La Mama is like sitting on the edge of your seat, hackles raised, eagerly anticipating something, without knowing what it is. A woman, presumably a stage manager, or crew member holds her finger in front of her lips, signaling us to keep our footsteps quiet. She hands out a piece of paper — what looks to be a program of the show, and it is.
A funeral program.
On the front, it reads: “In Loving Memory Of.” On the back, eight names:
Frank Embree
George Stinney
Emmett Till
Amadou Bailo Diallo
Oscar Grant
Fred Hampton 
Troy Davis 
Kalief Browder
The show itself, that is really not a show at all, but rather an experience expresses the stories of the Black male body. Through the artistic use of puppetry and other multimedia elements, the performance explores, “dehumanization, light, invisibility, and the magical-less-ness of it all.”
The writer and director, Nephrii Amenii started writing the show in 2012. Quoted in Broadway World, she said, “I’m using puppetry as a way of disarming the audience, as a means of helping everyone to lower their guard a bit … so they can see, hear and feel.”
Food for the Gods is layered. Dressed in white, one of the performers frustratedly laments her inability to catch the train without being bombarded with the world. In the next moment, a muted voice can be heard just beyond the stage doors. A woman’s voice. She’s singing. 

 

The doors open up, and she leads the audience into the theater space, where we encounter a set that could best be described as transformative. We traveled throughout four places: A bamboo laden forest, a ship, a maze, and a dinner party.
There is no hiding though. 
The proximity between the performers and the spectator could be described as such: up-close.
The pinnacle of the performance is a dinner party. With all eight guests in attendance.
Yes.
Frank, George, Emmett, Amadou, Oscar, Fred, Troy, and Kalief.
The puppeteers in place of these men and boys, eat, drink, and clink their glasses with one another, to the sound of mostly silence. It is both a haunting and horrifying sight. Puppeteers playing real people; dead ones. 
As the show comes to a close, it becomes clear what questions the performance is asking of us. There are many things to take away, more so than just a red flower.
“I learned a lot about what I value in a creative process and the kinds of questions I want my work to ask,” said Alexis Cofield. As an NYU student and one of the performers in the show, Food for the Gods is her New York theatre debut. 
2018.11.14 Food For The Gods photo by Theo Cote 33

Cofield (L) in Food for the Gods

“I learned that my purpose as an artist is always tied to Black Women and girls. Everything I do is for them and us.” 
Though there are no more shows for Food for the Gods, you can still catch the last show in the La Mama Puppet Festival series, ‘Jump Start’, from Nov. 23 – 25. 

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