Friday, February 10, 2012

What's for Dinner on THE LIGHTHOUSE?

If you're on a Scottish lighthouse in 1900, it's a family style plate of oatcakes and pilchards. At least, those are the two items mentioned in the libretto of Peter Maxwell Davies' opera The Lighthouse. As the Assistant Stage Manager in charge of props, food preparation falls into my domain, but I'll admit I did enlist the help of fellow ASM Ginger Castleberry when plating the most pungent of the fish.

We learned from our British director Tim Albery, British conductor, David Angus, and Canadian designer Camillia Koo that oatcakes are a familiar sight in English and Canadian grocery stores, but they were not as easy to find in Boston. A specialty shop in Harvard Square carried some, but finally, our props master ordered the preferred brand online for us to use for the show.

The creative team wanted to stay faithful to the story and have the singers eat real pilchards (canned fish), so we brought a variety of sardines to try. Packed in oil? Too messy. Packed in water? Just as smelly. With mustard? Didn't help the appeal. After a couple rounds of deli meat cut in strips stage management hoped would pass as pilchards, the winner was canned chicken - a little bit flaky like fish and moist enough to be palatable for the singers to eat between lines in the opera.

Wash it all down with water dyed brown to look like tea (most performers don't like to drink caffeine during a show), and you've got a balanced lighthouse meal. Don't forget to save some for the rats!

--Courtney Rizzo, Assistant Stage Manager

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