Showstopper Recipes from the Creative Talents on Stage and Behind the Scenes
Some time ago I had the opportunity to engage in conversation with some of the creative talents of a number of spectacular productions, finding out a bit more about their roles as actors, directors and choreographers in making these theatrical masterpieces the successful productions we, as the audience, enjoy. Listening to them speak about their challenges and joys, their passion and commitment to their art, I was inspired and will no doubt watch future productions with deeper appreciation. When they are not serving up spectacular performances to their audiences on stage – they shared a bit about the culinary creations they are serving on their tables for their guests. So, in true theatrical style and with the lyrics from Beauty and the Beast – “…we invite you to relax, let us pull up a chair as the dining room proudly presents – your dinner!”
Radio & TV personality
Multi-talented Jeremy Mansfield, who is well known as a radio and television personality, completed his studies in 1986 in drama and journalism at Rhodes with the intention of going into radio. Though he performed on stage in a number of productions and won the Avita award for most promising actor, he hadn’t been back on stage since then, and at the time I spoke with him, was looking forward to playing Abanazar in Aladdin. Bernard Jay of the Joburg Theatre had been after Mansfield for years, and when asked what made him agree this time, Mansfield says; “I didn’t have an excuse! I’d been on radio on the morning show for 12 years until 2010 so I just couldn’t do it, so when I went off air Bernard sat me down and told me that now I don’t have an excuse.” Of tapping into the darkness of his villainous character in Aladdin and making it convincing for the audience, Mansfield said it was difficult; “it has to be a character that can be identified by adults and children. It’s quite a tightrope – the adults realise it is supposed to be a villain, though they want to see the funny side, but for the children, you don’t really want them to see the funny side. It’s a bit schizophrenic to be honest.”
As co-author of the Zhoozsh! cookbooks, Mansfield is no stranger to cooking. He likes simple recipes that can be prepared in advance as he prefers to be with his guests than preparing food while they are around. This canapé recipe is “so easy to do and a perfect summer recipe.”
Cucumber and Prawn Canapés
Fat free smooth cream cheese
Reduced balsamic vinegar
Cut cucumber into slices about an inch long
Mix the cottage cheese with wasabi paste to taste
Spread on the cucumber
Add a leaf of rocket
Place a cooked prawn on top
Wrap smoked salmon around as if tying up
Add a dash of reduced balsamic vinegar to the salmon
Has a nice, fresh, sushi taste with the crunchiness of the cucumber.
CEO of The Baxter Theatre
Lara Foot is the first female CEO of the Baxter Theatre and recipient of numerous awards for her superb productions which seem to share a common thread – the stories resonate with South African audiences. At the end of 2013, Foot directed her interpretation of Charles Dickens’ Scrooge. Of this story, Foot says it is “so relevant. Dickens was an activist for children. He created colourful, memorable characters in literature. Scrooge is about transformation – of ideology and ethics, and also spiritual transformation. It was written in protest against capitalism and for the upliftment of poor children. It is a beautiful story with a big heart and no boundaries with regards to time.” According to Foot, the Baxter always has high standards so the challenge was to raise the bar and give audiences what they know to expect, with text that is relevant, and the use of colloquial language while maintaining respect for the original work. In one of her talks, Foot reveals an obsession with dark and light, engaging in dark to experience light, and this was reflected with Scrooge (played by Marc Lottering), who has to face the dark memories of his past to find the light, though told in a fantastical way where the dark is extreme and funny with the ghosts, or ‘spooks’ as we call them here.
With regards to food, Foot loves salads, with her favourite being Caesar salad with chicken, anchovies, eggs, croutons and parmesan.
1 tbs olive oil
20 g butter
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 slices white crusty bread (Italian loaf) cut into cubes
1 cos lettuce, torn
40g grated parmesan
1 chicken breast
2 large eggs
80ml (1/3 cup) extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 drained anchovy fillets
- Heat olive oil and butter on medium heat in a large pan.
- Add garlic and bread and cook for 4 minutes or until brown, stirring ocassionally. Remove from the pan and place on a paper towel to drain excess oil.
- Poach chicken breast in a little water until just cooked. When cool, cut into thin strips.
- Boil eggs for 5 minutes – yolks need to be slightly runny.
- Put the egg in a small pot of cold water. Bring to the boil and cook for 1 minute. Place in cold water to cool. Crack the egg and place in a blender
- Add oil, vinegar, mustard and anchovy fillets and blend
- Add salt and pepper
Place lettuce, croutons and parmesan in a large salad bowl
Scatter the chicken slices around the salad
Cut eggs in half and place on top of salad
Drizzle with the dressing to serve
Angela Kilian met her drama teacher when she was six years old and played her first leading role in high school as Anna in The King and I. She went on to star in Evita at the age of 23, with her first major leading role as a professional as Maria in The Sound of Music at the age of 24. She says she was fortunate to play such big roles from early on in her career but she has chosen carefully and been selective about planning her career, not just accepting roles for the sake of a job, and not getting stuck in chorus roles. Of her role as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, Kilian says that highlights included that the musical features some of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most beautiful music, which she got to sing. She studied drama, not musical theatre so having a “meaty, heavy-acting character [made] it more about acting than anything else. Having a solid character to work with [was] a treat.” Speaking about the challenges of the role, Kilian says that besides the physical challenges of the songs she had to “go into dark, emotional places. Rehearsals were exhausting, tapping into where, as an actor, you don’t ever want to go in your life – you don’t want to be the has-been star.” Famous actors such as Glenn Close and Elaine Page have also made the role famous, so it was also a challenge to make it her own and successful, but Kilian is grateful she was well received with positive reviews. She said that every day when she left the stage she had to remind herself that she is Angela, have a cleansing shower and put Norma to bed.”
Kilian, who has been a vegetarian for about 13 years and won’t eat anything “that has a face or a mother” shared her variation on a similar recipe published by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) for Thanksgiving 1994.
2 tablespoons oil or margarine
2 large onions, chopped fine
5 cloves (or an entire bulb) garlic, minced
3 cups raw cashews
1 ½ cups bread
1 cup soup stock (or water)
salt and pepper
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 cups bread cubes, toasted
2 tablespoons margarine, melted but not hot
½ to ¾ cup finely-chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon marjoram
½ teaspoon sage
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
salt to taste
(From the first list:) Cook the onion and garlic in the oil or margarine until tender, and remove from the heat.
Chop the cashews by hand or in a food processor; cut up the bread as well. Add the cashews and bread to the onion, then add the vegetable stock, salt and pepper, nutmeg, and lemon juice. Put half of this mixture into a small, non-stick loaf pan (or line a regular loaf pan with parchment paper if a non-stick pan is unavailable).
Mix together all the ingredients from the second list. Put the mixture on top of the stuff in the loaf pan, and add the rest of the first mixture so that there are three layers of food in the pan.
Place the pan on a baking sheet or in a larger loaf pan (in case it overflows while cooking), and bake at 400 degrees F for half an hour. The top should be browned.
Let the roast cool for a few minutes, then turn the pan over and serve the roast on a plate (or simply serve it out of the pan). Serve with a vegan gravy or mushroom sauce if desired, keeping in mind that it is a very rich dish! And a couple of roast potatoes never harmed anyone!
I spoke with Adele Blank the day after her return from Johannesburg, where her tribute production Blank Page featured as part of the 25th annual Dance Umbrella at the Market Theatre. Blank describes the event as “mammoth” with the extra challenges of getting into the theatre which resembled a construction site during renovations, but “by hook or by crook we got it off the ground” she tells me and by the third evening’s performance it was “the show I wanted to see.” The tribute show, which celebrated 50 years of Blank’s dance career, came about as a result of an idea of her daughter to leave a legacy in the form of their dance company, Free Flight, which helps fund underprivileged dancers to be sent away to perform and be nurtured. Blank, who believes that any space is performance space, recounted some stories to support this: “A few years ago we did a show for the 100 years of SA Art in a national gallery featuring 14 different works of art. The dancers took the audience through all fourteen pieces in a full on dance performance, with the audience right there in your face.” Of West Side Story, which Blank was working on at the time, she tells me that choreographing this production was “a dream” – though the challenges arose in keeping to the original choreography, and having a different set – “after all, we are in South Africa”, though there was relevance in terms of gang warfare.
When Adele was in high school, in domestic science class she was given a 3-course speed test, where she was required to prepare a 3 course meal, documenting the ingredients, method and preparation time, in a three hour process. She shares her dessert recipe with us:
200g Peanut Brittle (or any caramelised nuts)
1 packet Vanilla Instant Pudding
500ml Fresh Cream
Crush the peanut brittle.
Prepare the instant pudding using cream instead of milk.
Stir the peanut brittle into the pudding mix.
Grease a freezer safe dish.
Pour the mixture into the dish, put it in the freezer and “forget about it”
Cut into squares when ready to serve.
Makes 4 servings
Director of The Rocky Horror Show
Matthew Wild, whose theatrical career was inspired by helping his dance teacher mother backstage from pretty much as soon as he was “out of nappies”, was bitten by the opera bug in his mid-teens and spurred on by a brilliant music teacher who took him to lots of live classical music and kept him stocked with CDs which introduced him to masterpieces from all corners of the operatic repertoire. Leading up to The Rocky Horror Show, 2013 saw him directing the Adam Small play, The Orange Earth in January, the premiere of Philip Millers’ mining opera, Between Rocky and a Hard Place in Stockholm, an edgy, modern Don Giovanni and at the time of interviewing, Wild was in Brisbane to revive CTO’s production of Othello for Opera Queensland. The Rocky Horror Show is Wild’s first go at directing a musical and he says “a lot of my work is quite austere and it was nerve-wracking but fun to go crazy with sequins, corsets, wigs, glitzy curtains – all the things I would normally not touch with a bargepole.” He also says that working on such a recognisable brand brought unique challenges and he felt that it was vital to find the right balance between respecting the piece’s traditional iconography and adding fresh twists with the audience participation element being pretty unique to Rocky. “The joys will be with me for many years: watching our Frank-n-Furter Brendan van Rhyn proving his nervous director wrong by effortlessly dancing, skipping, hopping, sashaying and shimmying across every inch of our multilevel set in killer heels; being gobsmacked by Shaun Smit’s astonishing 5 month body transformation from slender model to eye-poppingly beefy Rocky; hearing actors who’d never been in a musical discovering their own magnificent singing voices for the first time; and seeing special effects (like the car and spaceship scenes) working magically on stage for the first time after a lot of planning, stressing and hoping. The ultimate highlight has been melding such a happy theatre family from our brilliant cast and production team – and of course seeing how much joy audiences get from the show. That’s priceless!”
Janet’s Apple Pie Martini
60ml vanilla vodka
45ml unsweetened apple juice
15ml simple syrup
15ml lemon juice
Pinch of cinnamon
Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice, shake well and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice or two of apple.
Note: This article was commissioned for print in a soon to be launched magazine and all of these interviews were conducted in 2013 and photos provided by the interviewees. Unfortunately, the magazine never went to print