This week Portland Ovations hosted performance artist Dan Froot for a whirlwind visit in our fair city. Dan is the co-creator of “Who’s Hungry,” a powerful and provocative puppetry piece that gives a voice to those who suffer from food insecurity that we are presenting in April at and in conjunction with SPACE Gallery.
While “Who’s Hungry” is adapted from the oral histories of five California residents, we are eager to connect the themes of hunger to our own state, which ranks #1 New England for food insecurity. Dan’s advance visit gave him (and Ovations staff) a crash course in what hunger looks like in Maine, as well as the opportunity to meet with and learn about all of the local organizations working tirelessly to effect change.
Our first day with Dan started early, when we all gathered at the Maine Development Foundations’ Leadership UnPlugged to hear Kristen Miale, President of the Good Shepherd Food Bank, deliver staggering statistics on childhood hunger in Maine. From there, we went to SPACE Gallery for chance to see the performance space; given the unconventional staging coupled with the unconventional space, this was a vital visit to make sure all goes smoothly. The afternoon gave way to an intensive meeting with members of our advisory council – staff of Preble Street, SPACE, United Way, Blunt Youth Radio, Pierce Atwood, Cultivating Community and Portland Public Schools all came together to learn more about our project and April residency, and brainstorm how we can work together to effectively present “Who’s Hungry” to our community, by examining issues of access, context, and lasting impact.
The next day included a tour of Preble Street and its numerous facilities and services, as well as a valuable meeting with Advocate Leaders of Homeless Voices for Justice. Dan also visited the East End Community School, where their practices (universal breakfast in the classroom; calm, quiet lunches where kids can just focus on the experience of eating) have had a huge change on their students. Dan closed out his trip with a meeting with Cultivating Community to learn about their expansive community food work.
Our two days with Dan Froot provided an ESSENTIAL opportunity to acquaint artist and community, laying the groundwork for a thought-provoking performance and impactful residency with the Portland community. We are grateful to everyone who contributed their time and their unique expertise and insights.
Dan Froot’s advance visit was made possible in part by support from the National Performance Network (NPN) Community Fund. For more information: www.npnweb.org.