What a spectacular privilege to open our fourteenth season with a World Premiere commission from Theresa Rebeck. The saga that created this opportunity goes back six years. Always huge fans of her work, we first dipped our feet into her pool with “The Scene.” And when Maurice Kanbar, one of SF’s great philanthropists chose to film it, we got to hang out with Theresa when she was here doing the screenplay that ended up transforming our Amy Glazer-helmed production of “The Scene,” into the film, “The Seduction of Charlie Barker.”
Having such a great time with Theresa and connecting often afterward in New York, we offered to commission her five years ago. She expressed interest. But it wasn’t until three years later when we were working on “Jerusalem” with the actor Brian Dykstra and hanging out with Margarett Perry, we discovered they were both good friends of Theresa’s. So we were able to double-team her with our boundless excitement and – tada! – the commission became a reality.
Brian had helped Theresa develop many of her plays’ protagonists in workshops that led to productions featuring film stars, so 1.) she really knew his voice as an actor, and 2.) it was time to write a play especially for him. And the fact that Brian is actually a chef led to the decision to do a “kitchen” play. Add special cooking lessons from the accomplished chef below us at Farallon Restaurant, and voila! we have a feast!
Ms. Rebeck’s distinguished career has successful bridged, like few others, the worlds of television and theatre, with their respective emphases on the commercialism of West Coast entertainment and the art of New York theatre! So she knows firsthand the difficulties of balancing art with commerce. Much of her work reflects that contradiction. And Seared transposes the classic American story of the artist battling the corporation to the world of cooking.
Chefs are artists and the more we have talked with professionals in the cooking field the more we hear of their struggle to maintain artistic standards against the demands of the marketplace, much as an artistic director must walk that same tightrope in the world of the theatre. It is a torturous path and many are not cut out for it. As artists, we crave the approval of the press and the public, but our secret spirits often yearn to be left alone to fell a magnificent tree in the forest that no one will hear.
Our artists’ souls are vulnerable, prone to self-doubt and self-loathing, and many of us cling to reality by threads. We need safe places to do our best. But our American marketplace is not such a place. Theresa digs into the artists struggle to balance integrity with “success.” She throws our chef/artist into the cauldron and we wince with pain and recognition as we must watch this delicate artist seared by the fire of commerce.