Dinner theater is usually something we’d rather opt out of. Theater—sure. Dinner—of course. It’s the combination of the two that often sinks both. So, how is it that the Catamounts, a Boulder-based performance group, has us desperate for tickets to its next dining performance?
One part farm dinner, one part performance art, and one part tasting menu, the Catamounts’ themed Feed series is less dinner theater and more dinner-paired theater. The semantics are subtle, but the effect is not: Short performances are coursed alongside food and drink. Like the actors onstage, Feed’s chef de cuisine Zachary Wilkinson is an artistic collaborator, and he delivers an essential part of the overall production.
At last summer’s smoke-themed event, audience members were welcomed to Boulder’s 63rd St. Farm (locations vary with each event) with barrel-aged gin and house-smoked tonic while the band played a rendition of the Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House.” At each event, a four-course meal is served at a long community-style dining table, and Wilkinson’s dishes are crafted to enrich their performance counterparts. They might seem forced at first, but the pairings are thoughtful and often entertaining. For example, a reading of an Onion article titled “I’ll Smoke Anything” could accompany a plate of “Chef Zach’ll Smoke Anything” morsels such as rhubarb streusel bread smoked with alder wood, peach-wood-smoked macadamia nuts, and pickles smoked three ways.
In just two years, Feed performances have gained a dedicated following—and in 2012, the nonprofit won a $25,000 Arts & Business Collaborative Grant from the Boulder Arts Commission. The extra funding will allow the Catamounts to offer more events, purchase its own catering equipment, and bring in new collaborators, such as local brewers and design studios. “We want to continue to create an experience rather than a piece of art,” says artistic director Amanda Berg Wilson. “This is a unique, one-time thing.”
You wouldn’t expect an actor to alter a scene because it wasn’t to your liking, would you? So it goes with Feed’s menu. Should you have food restrictions, be prepared to sit out a course.
Feed: Fermentation, June 9
Feed: Preserve, August 25
Visit thecatamounts.org to purchase tickets ($55 to $65). Events often sell out quickly.