Plays for New Audiences is proud to introduce the newest title in our catalogue, Recipe for Disaster by Barry Kornhauser! To celebrate, we sat down to talk with Barry about the inspiration for this piece.
Barry's theatre honors include the Children's Theatre Foundation of America's Orlin Corey Medallion, the American Alliance for Theatre & Education (AATE) Charlotte Chorpenning Cup, Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Play (Cyrano), Ivey Playwriting Award (Reeling), Bonderman Playwriting Prize (Worlds Apart), and three AATE Distinguished Play Awards (This Is Not A Pipe Dream, Balloonacy, and Corduroy). His youth theatre program for teens living with disabilities and other life challenges was honored at the White House as one of the nation's top arts-education initiatives.
What inspired you to write this story?
I remember chatting at a TYA conference with David Saar of Childsplay and Steve McCormick then working at the La Jolla Playhouse, when we began ruminating about, and bemoaning, the seemingly conspicuous decline of basic civility in American culture. We noted that character education in the schools was maybe becoming as important to kids as academics. This, of course, is the schooling that teaches children to care about and act upon the core ethical values that are the very foundation of our society – things like respect, justice, equity, responsibility not only for self but for others, all of which help kids develop as moral, caring, non-bullying, pro-social human beings. And as important as these values are in school, so are they in everyday life. I like that someone once described character education as “nurturing the flourishing of human goodness!” We thought that maybe a TYA play could make a small contribution to such character education, and the word “nurturing” led us to the kitchen and the care and feeding of children. (An early working title was Food For Thought.)
What do you hope audiences take away from this story?
Basically, the notion that character counts! This somewhat allegorical play is written in a kind of clown medium to help convey not only how harmful, but how foolish (or clownish) it is to put aside those core ethical values. Both Master Chefs we meet attempt to raise themselves up by putting the other down. They think only of themselves, not each other, not the Apprentice they are supposed to mentor, not even those they are meant to serve, being far more concerned with feeding their egos than feeding their guests. By deliberately damaging one another, these two decidedly “non-bipartisan” Chefs damage themselves, not to mention the kitchen itself, while, in contrast, our young Apprentice, working cooperatively and kindly, achieves his dream of becoming a truly nurturing soul. You might say that all the characters in this play’s kitchen get their “just desserts.”
What is next for you? What should we keep an eye out for?
A couple of potential projects that it is too early to speak about publicly just yet, as they may not come to fruition. But I have a good many TYA plays that I have never submitted for publication. In fact, Recipe For Disaster has been sitting in my computer for 10 years since its premiere production. It was only this past summer when I got a gentle nudge from Deborah Wicks La Puma (who wrote some delightful music for the piece), that I finally got around to sending it to PNA. I’m terribly shy about submitting plays for publication largely because I always think that maybe if I did just a little more work on each script, it would be better. But, alas, I am often too busy with my day job or the next play to find the time to attend to the last. That said, I have only recently started to actually revisit some of my older plays, ones that I think may have something to offer. And when I do finally finish futzing with them, Plays For New Audiences will be the first to know!