Puppet and dance show to serve up hunger awareness in Portland

Typically, a touring performance troupe comes to town, does a show and leaves for the next city. But the puppeteers and dancers who will bring "Who’s Hungry" to Space Gallery beginning Thursday hope their show will have a longer-term effect on the people of Portland.

Their performance will explore hunger in Maine and offer audiences a chance to think about solutions. The production tells the stories of five homeless or hungry people, using dance, puppetry, music and dialogue, said co-creator Dan Froot, who lives in California. Froot came to Portland in December to research the show and has spoken by phone and via video with homeless advocates here several times since.

"Who’s Hungry" plays out on a 24-foot dinner table. The audience is seated as if they are at a banquet. Instead of food, the four performers serve stories. They are visible to the audience and operate the puppet from behind.

"We generally say that this show is puppetry, but there’s a large container for what we think of as puppetry," Froot said. "All the performers are first and foremost dancers. There’s a lot of movement in the piece."

While this week’s performances tell the stories of homeless and hungry people from around the country, the intent is to find local solutions.

"Not only is food insecurity prevalent in Portland and in Maine, but it’s also solvable," Froot said. "We saw this as an opportunity to bring people together who are working on this issue."

About 15 percent of people in Maine experienced food insecurity over three years ending in 2012, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture survey that asks whether people have had to go without meals or been unable to afford a full, balanced diet. Seven percent are considered to have very low food security.

People who are food-insecure lack the money to buy healthy, nutritious food, said Amy Regan Gallant, advocacy coordinator for Preble Street Resource Center and director of the Maine Hunger Initiative. Preble Street is among the partners that Portland Ovations tapped when it put this program together. Others are the United Way, Portland Public Schools and corporate sponsor Pierce Atwood, a Portland law firm.[Click here to read the full article on the Portland Press Herald website]

See the Show:

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Space Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland

HOW MUCH: $20; or 842-0800