Adam Kantor Wants You to See (and Taste) the Queer Narrative With PrideTable
With StoryCourse, Broadway stalwart Adam Kantor (“The Band’s Visit”) has dashed every notion of “dinner theater” to create a synesthetic experience wherein food deepens the story and story deepens the food. But for WorldPride, Kantor has partnered with and enlisted youth from the Hetrick-Martin Institute — one of the nation’s largest and oldest LGBTQ+ youth services organizations — for the most ambitious StoryCourse endeavor yet: PrideTable. The pop-up, which runs through June 29 at Avenues: The World School, will explore a multicultural-and-generational exodus of LGBTQ+ identity. And yes, Kantor assures: It’s as moving as it is delicious.
Before we get to PrideTable, can you describe StoryCourse for those who may be unfamiliar?
Essentially, StoryCourse is a merging of the worlds of food and theater. We’ve been focusing on telling the stories of marginalized voices through those mediums, and breaking down the walls that exist between them — and within the food world itself. We walk around the city every day consuming stories that we might not get the opportunity to uncover. The hypothesis was: Could the experience of eating food be all the more powerful if you knew the stories underneath what you’re consuming? Could food serve almost like a song does in a musical, as the ultimate expression of a journey or a revelation? Time and again we’ve seen, yes, it can.
What was your initial impetus to create StoryCourse?
I was speaking to a friend about, “Why can’t these worlds be merged more?” You hear the term “dinner theater” and you kind of shutter because we all have these memories where the food was terrible, the theater was terrible. One had nothing to do with the other. These are two worlds that intrinsically operate in similar ways. It’s all about guest experience and driving towards an emotional impact. In theory it makes a lot of sense but in execution, the logistics are insane. It’s like opening a show and opening a restaurant at the same time, but at the end of it, you have these worlds taking care of and uplifting each other. The first StoryCourse we did, which was a Passover Seder, we saw that there’s a lot of power in telling a story through food and interactive performance. That was always the goal from the beginning: How can food and theater operate in service of one another?
Getting to PrideTable, what makes this incarnation different from those previous?
The idea is to have a really diverse and intergenerational lens into the queer narrative. It’s WorldPride, so we wanted to make sure we had chefs from multiple cultures. We thought, “Maybe we’ll have different chefs on different nights, but then we thought if you only come once you’re only getting a small window into this whole experience.” We did the craziest fucking thing anyone could do and said, “Let’s have five chefs every night and have five different stories.” The result is far-reaching; it’s dynamic, shape-shifting.
Why was it important to you to devote a StoryCourse production to Pride?
New York City is the host for WorldPride [this year] and it’s the first time it’s hitting American soil. It’s also the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. After the second Seder we did in April 2018, I thought about this story we call “slavery-to-freedom” or “erased-to-seen,” which the Seder is modeled on. [But] this journey could apply to more than just a geographical journey. This exodus could be one of the soul, one of identity. Knowing that WorldPride was coming up, I thought, This feels like the time to tell a story of identity in that way — queer identity and LGBTQ identity.
Why should audiences come take a literal seat at PrideTable?
It is the most uplifting, delicious thing you can experience during Pride. The chefs and the storytellers are gonna blow you away and it’s just deeply moving. And I think during Pride, it’s important to not only parade on the streets and kiss in public and wear your Pride flag, but to take a moment and invest in the stories of where we came from and where we’re going. That’s what PrideTable is all about.