Pondering potlucks

Like moms and dads across much of the country, I spent a portion of yesterday preparing for a Memorial Day barbeque with family. The tiny television atop our kitchen counter top was tuned to C-SPAN so I could see ceremonies taking place at Arlington National Cemetery.

A burger best not barbequed

Several graduation ceremonies were also broadcast Monday on C-SPAN, including one from May 22, featuring alumnus William E. Lowry, Jr. speaking to the 2010 graduating class of Kenyon College in Ohio.

I wanted to run straight to the computer, find a transcript of Lowry’s remarks, and e-mail them to my oldest daughter on the occasion of her leaving the nest to live on campus.

I resisted, suspecting they’d be dubbed mere maternal interference or grossly under-appreciated for another decade or so.

As Lowry eloquently tackled topics from the value of diversity to the importance of networking, one simple phrase grabbed my attention—Eating from the same table…

The evening before, Lizabeth and I had joined the cast of Greasepaint Youtheatre’s “The Sound of Plaid” for their post-strike potluck. Although she wasn’t in the cast, I’d volunteered to help with food as needed.

More fun with food

My assignment that night was pasta salad and veggies—which left me wondering whether a theater muse somewhere was seeking revenge for the times I’d made grub favored by my meat and potatoes loving boy only to discover most of the cast was vegetarian.

The cast graciously welcomed Lizabeth to sit and eat with them at the long picnic tables set out at Greasepaint Youtheatre (the former “Stagebrush Theatre” once home to the Scottsdale Community Players). I enjoyed the company of fellow theater parents.

It reminded me that most theater kids, in a day and age when so many discussions are divisive and derogatory, are genuinely inclusive people. It’s a quality they’ll carry into their own families, workplaces and communities—and I’m grateful.

Let's pig out!

Still, like Lowry’s remarks, their readiness to embrace others is often under-appreciated.

I recall the first potluck Greasepaint Youtheatre held following its affiliation with Phoenix Theatre. The invitation came to cast members and families via Robert Kolby Harper (associate artistic director for Phoenix Theatre and artistic director for both Greasepaint Youtheatre and Cookie Company).

Before long a mom of one of the teen cast members suggested to Harper that we nix the potluck since several of the cast members already had a post-strike tradition of taking to a local eatery together. But Harper held firm (something he always manages to do in a fun way), and the potluck proceeded as planned.

I couldn’t have been more pleased with the results as “Oliver!” cast members from tallest to tiniest gathered to share fresh salad, homemade Italian fare and more—including the traditional sheet cake that’s usually big enough to feed the cast several times over.

Still think presentation doesn't count?

I learned a few things about theater kids that evening, including the fact that they’re a health conscious bunch—something I found surprising considering the bounty of brownies brought by stage moms and dads.

I was also reminded that everything seems better with beautiful packaging. The hit that night was a pasta salad presented in a deep Mediterranean inspired bowl, which made my more practical presentation of pasta salad in a tacky storage container on Sunday feel all the more underwhelming.

I tried for pretty presentation at the post-strike potluck for “The Laramie Project” a few months ago, but found that chaos trumped my creativity. The fresh raspberries I’d brought for topping dainty round brownies never made it that far, although the kids did manage to find my can of whipping cream, using it to embellish all sorts of edibles.

Whip it, whip it good!

I made some more mental notes. These theater kids are creative. They think outside the box. And when in doubt, be the mom who brings the whipped cream. Sometimes it’s just that simple.

I signed up to bring snacks a while back for one of ASA’s “Smile” rehearsals, and carefully stocked a cooler with yoghurts, fruit, nuts, veggies and cheese. The cast member I ran into while dropping them off seemed less than enthusiastic.

Winner of the 'Miss Popularity' contest

Turns out the mom who signed up for Monday ordered oodles of pizzas. For the kids, I think, it was all downhill after that. And so I offer another tip: Be the Monday mom. Or the pizza mom. Or the mom who confuses snacks with supper.

No matter that my veggies and pasta salad weren’t a big hit at the “Plaid” potluck. We simply saved them to share with James’ parents at our Memorial Day feast. Like many of today’s grandparents, they were born during the Great Depression, so no food ever goes unappreciated.

Today I’ll be enjoying a morning gathering of fellow ASA volunteers. I’m only tasting, not toiling—which will truly be a treat.

Still, I may have to stop on the way for a wee bit of whipping cream…


Note: Arizona’s own Childsplay theater company coined its name at a potluck in 1977–click here to learn more.

Coming up: Potluck perspectives (answering the burning question, “What does your potluck style say about you?”)


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