“We became increasingly interested in not only the connection not only between an audience and performer but of content to place and time,” said Tey.
And there wasn’t anything much more relevant to our current state than the things brought to light in the Washington Post article, which described the RGV as the fattest and poor place in the nation.
“The Food Project is necessary because food is connected to everything,” said Sawicki.
The group set out to create an interactive, theatre-influenced situation based on the topic.
Sawicki says the process of sorting through the local and national statistics can be overwhelming. The project has consisted of “information gather[ing] from interviews with RGV leaders in health, agriculture, education, social service and politics,” according to their promotional material.
“There are a million and one way to do this, and there are no rules or set guidelines, but for us it was a mix of research and a lot of talking,” said Tey. “I feel like we all have moments where we’re chatting with our friends about issues that are important to us or we have strong opinions about, and we take those conversations and we make a scene, song or dance about it. It comes from that initial conversation of people sharing passionate things that they believe.”
Their information development events have take them to Harlingen, Edinburg and Pharr, talking to different people about their relationship with food. One attendee was James W. Castillo of the Cameron County Health Authority. His reaction to the event was positive saying, “The information was presented in such an approachable and non-politicized way so as to allow the message to really get across. Even some of my preconceptions were changed and it was nice to hear about some possible solutions.”
Another participant in the discussion was Diana Padilla, the owner of Yahweh’s All Natural Farm and Garden in Harlingen. “If people can see and hear the problems, they may starting thinking of new ideas,” said Padilla, in reference to collaborative nature of The Food Project.
“By us positioning ourselves as artist in the room, we are allowed to creatively engage in conversations without asserting that we’re experts,” said Munoz. “We are engagers and question-askers, using aesthetic means as our platform.”
Through this process, the directors and ensemble members learn from the ideas they’re introduced to, listening to the stories of real people with real relationships with the issue.
“We have smart, talented artists down here who can and are writing these stories and developing these characters in deeper ways than anyone else could, because they are close to it,” said Sawicki.
The culmination of this will be presented at Cine El Rey Theatre on August 9 and 10.
“We’re trying to gauge the experiences of the RGV community in hopes of creating a better understanding of the situation, as a whole, said Munoz. “It is only through critical discourse that change can occur.”
That’s what Food Project’s aim is: to engage in critical dialogue with the community.