Photo: Alexandre Galliez
Photo: Alexandre Galliez

An Ingredient For Fun: ‘Cuisine & Confessions’

The marriage of acrobats and cooking may seem like an odd pairing, but the theatrical showcase Cuisine & Confessions by Canadian troupe The 7 Fingers of the Hand has been wowing audiences across the world, finding the perfect recipe for success.

The event, a combination of dance, acrobatics, theatrics and cooking onstage, plus a mini-festival that includes food trucks in between performances, will come to George Mason University’s Center for the Arts on April 8 and 9, with two shows on Saturday (2 p.m. and 8 p.m.) and one on Sunday (4 p.m.). The mini-festival will occur on April 8 from 4-8 p.m.

The 7 Fingers were formed in Montreal 15 years ago by founder Shana Carroll, who was looking to create an off-shoot of Cirque du Soleil. Designed as a circus company built on a human scale, the troupe has produced a dozen shows, with over 4,200 performances to date in 300 cities in over 40 countries. It has also been behind the staging of Pippin on Broadway and the off-Broadway cabaret Queen of the Night.

For Cuisine & Confessions, the troupe utilizes circus acts and acrobatics to depict scenes of family meals and intimate moments in the kitchen. At the same time, one of the members will be cooking a signature dish while telling an intricate story that adds to the theatrics of the scene.

Matias Plaul, an Argentine-born acrobat whose specialty in the show is performing tricks on the Chinese pole, spends time in the show cooking pasta and telling stories about the foods his mother would prepare for him after his father was “kidnapped” by a dictatorial regime.

“I tell the story of my father, which is really a dramatic moment,” Plaul says. “I like the humanity of the show. Normally when you do circus, it’s very cartoonish, but this show has something very real where people come into a theater and we open our kitchens and our homes to them. Because we are talking about personal things, there’s real empathy and trust.”

Each of the seven members of the act are onstage performing while they take turns cooking, telling their tales and engaging in conversations with the audience.

“One of our directors is an excellent cook and has a huge kitchen where we always go to eat, so the idea came from him, and it was decided that we wouldn’t write anything at first, but would be inside a kitchen and do our act and tell our stories,” Plaul says. “Once everyone started telling their food stories, that developed into this show.”

Not all the stories are as deep as Plaul’s, but they are all personal and lively. For instance, performer Melvin Diggs speaks of his absent father leading into an incredible hoops act with Sidney Bateman; Pablo Pramparo juggles giant utensils while urging everyone to try cooking; and Nella Niva goes from preparing breakfast in bed to performing an acoustic version of “You’re the One That I Want” from Grease.

“The show is very moving, but also very funny as well,” Plaul says. “Audiences don’t always know what to expect, but at the end of the show, they often stay and want to talk and share their own stories about food and family.”

Between shows on Saturday April 8, attendees can enjoy food and further entertainment on the plaza outside the Center for the Arts, as trucks will sell snacks and dinner as a series of artsy outdoor demonstrations are enacted. Participating food trucks will include Doug the Food Dude, offering healthy wraps and rolls; Steak and Shake, known for its all-American favorites; and Captain Cookie and the Milkman, serving baked goods and ice cream. There will also be an onsite “confessions” photo booth in the Center’s lobby, where attendees will reveal their guiltiest food pleasures.

Cuisine & Confessions will be held Saturday, April 8 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. (with the mini-festival taking place in between at 4 p.m.) and on Sunday, April 9 at 4 p.m. in the Concert Hall at GMU’s Center for the Arts.

George Mason University’s Center for the Arts: 4373 Mason Pond Dr. Fairfax, VA; 888-945-2468; www.cfa.gmu.edu