|Photo by Erin Lavelle|
|Robert Farid Karimi|
¡Viva la Soul Power! may include theater and a meal, but it's far from dinner theater. Instead, the brainchild of Robert Farid Karimi and the People's Cook looks to fully integrate the theatrical and culinary experiences.
In it, Karimi plays Mero Cocinero, a world-renowned chef who has a revolutionary way of looking at food at his restaurant. "It's a comedy interactive cooking performance. We're honestly stressing it is not a play. The audience is a participant from beginning to end," Karimi says.
Robert Farid Karimi on remixing cultural identity
There are elements of drama -- or maybe farce would be a better term -- in connection to the piece. That is already playing out online, like a soap opera, as Cocinero tries to hire a staff for his new restaurant.
The end result is "like the Daily Show meets a cooking show," Karimi says.
The artist -- and his character -- share a "quest for community well being. There are all these health diseases, like diabetes and heart disease, tied to how you eat. We're trying to get people to reconnect to their culture. We want to get people to interact and have an exchange of stories while eating together," Karimi says. "There are five courses, and one of them is stories."
The genesis of the idea started with Karimi in San Francisco as a way to combine "political satire, comedy improv, and performance with the concept of a cooking show to get people to come into the room. We started to focus more on the health issues, not because we were trying to make a statement, but because we were artists responding to the environment around us to create a piece."
One of the keys is to look at healthier ways for people to deal with food. "There is so much shame and guilt with food. A lot of the food conversations are external, and there is a lot of finger waving," Karimi says.
Instead, he wants people to engage with their own histories with food. Karimi has strong memories of the breakfast his grandmother used to serve him, including fresh-squeezed orange juice, black beans, and fresh bread.
Karimi isn't going to tell you to stop eating your favorites. For example, he has great memories of going to baseball games as a youth and dining on nachos with jalapeño peppers.
"I'm not saying that you can't reconnect to that moment. You should love that moment, but you can't have that memory every day. That's the façade of the American dream. That every day is the seventh inning stretch. We're saying that maybe there are more ways to have a good time," Karimi says.
Along with connecting with food traditions, Karimi also thinks the social aspect of eating is important. "There's a Basque restaurant in Reno I loved because no one was allowed to sit by themselves," he says.
How the evening progresses depends on "whatever energies are in the room. In Philadelphia, we accidentally put 'bring your own bottle' on the flyer. Everyone came with at least one bottle of wine. It gave them permission to act out and they became characters," Karimi says.
IF YOU GO:
¡Viva la Soul Power!
6 p.m. doors, 7 p.m. show Thursday-Sunday, Nov. 1-4 and Nov. 7-10
2822 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
$25 (includes dinner). Reservations recommended.
For information and ticket reservations, call 612.871.4444 or visit online
2822 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN