A theatre company in the Hudson Valley is teaming up with the Culinary Institute of America for new offering.
Poughkeepsie-based Half Moon Theatre and the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park are collaborating on a dinner theatre type venture. Molly Renfroe Katz is executive director of Half Moon.
“We say it’s dinner theatre on steroids,” says Renfroe Katz. “We’re thrilled about the pairing of courses. It’s the art of theatre and the art of gastronomy paired. And we’re so excited about that.”
She says it’s the first time Half Moon has collaborated so closely with an organization. Stephan Hengst is CIA spokesman.
“We have this amazing new Marriott Pavilion here on campus that we opened earlier this year. And we built it to host student events, thought leadership conferences, graduations, and a number of other things that we do throughout the year,” says Hengst. “But this expansion to working with the Half Moon Theatre is really something new and exciting not only because it brings such great talent to the CIA, but now also offers our quarter million visitors that come to campus every year an opportunity for something new. They can actually come and have dinner and a show, which is something you’ve never been able to do on campus before.”
The CIA will offer a pre-show, three-course, prix fixe menu prior to select performances. As many of the productions will feature food themes, CIA chefs will create thematic menus. Again, Renfroe Katz.
“For our production of Fully Committed in January, there’s, Tim Zagat is mentioned and they talk about specific items in the play and we’re hoping to do something that reflects that in the prix fixe menu that is being offered by The Bocuse and Caterina de’ Medici and the American Bounty, all the three fantastic restaurants here at the CIA,” says Renfroe Katz. “We hope to have things reflecting the show and some tie-ins as well, maybe some before pre-show speakers to talk about some of the menu items and what it’s like to run a restaurant, a top restaurant, in New York because that’s what the play is all about, the chaos and hijinks of it.”
Half Moon Theatre’s season at the CIA kicks off with a benefit gala October 25. Tony Award-winning Actress Cady Huffman is headlining the gala, and will perform her new cabaret show. Huffman, known for originating the role of Swedish bombshell Ulla in The Producers opposite Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane, says it’s her first time at the CIA.
“I sing a lot about food, relationships, relationships with people, relationships with food, the food I ate with different people,” says Huffman. “It becomes a very emotional and exciting tribute to the people who have been very important to me in my life and the food that we shared and how important it is, how it is to have a family table and share conversation and everything else.”
She served as a judge on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America for 10 seasons, and says the new partnership presents opportunities for CIA students.
“It’s also a challenge to the students at CIA that they can be so creative, that it’s a challenge to them,” says Huffman. “How does this piece of theatre inspire you as a chef? I mean, that’s amazing.”
Huffman describes herself as an adventurous eater.
“My favorite food? Gosh, I eat everything,” Huffman says. “But I guess, sort of, comfort food for me tends to be Italian because I grew up in an Italian household so like the very hearty soups, like my grandmother cooked pasta e fagioli that everybody just went nuts for.”
Facing the kind of pressure that is common in box offices and dressing rooms nationwide, arts organizations in the region have worked to build partnerships especially in recent years. And, if many go nuts for the CIA/Half Moon partnership, both Renfroe Katz and Hengst expect they will look to serve up additional offerings beyond the winter months. The Half Moon Theatre/CIA productions run through February, beginning November 1 with The World Goes Round, a musical revue of Kander and Ebb’s greatest Broadway hits.