Hot Off the Presses
Charlotte Area Coverage
Martin felt drawn to telling Charlotte’s story — its real story — and not in a surface-level way. What she and Mixed Metaphors Productions came up with is FixaPlate, an immersive theatrical experience that aims to tell the history of Charlotte through food.
“I feel like the answers to those questions have been around the table and on these porches rather than in boardrooms and in funding meetings,” she said.
If it sounds like there’s a lot going on, that’s because there is. FixaPlate aims to be a sort of buffet-style collaboration where one can pick and choose what moves them. MMP’s hope is that by offering so much, not only will it expand and complicate the narrative about what Charlotte is and who it belongs to, but expand the chances that something will stick to your ribs.
The complication is kind of the point for Martin, a lifelong Charlottean who has been witness to a rapidly growing and changing city. In conversations with Rickey Hall of the West Boulevard Neighborhood Coalition and Nadine Ford of the Druid Hills and Little Sugar Creek Community Gardens, Martin asked, “What does this progress mean, and who is it for?”
Kat Martin, brought aboard as assistant director and dramaturg, hasn’t worked at any theatre company before in the QC – and she’s drawing “rock star” accolades for her work in her Charlotte debut.
“Although I am not a Middle East expert,” says Martin, “a dramaturg’s job is to become an expert quickly then create points of entry for deepened understanding for creatives as well as community members.”
With discussions of racial justice and police brutality permeating the public discourse, Kat says that people naturally ask, “What can I do?”
Her response? “What are your skills?”
When it comes to creatives, that can be sharing your perspective through your work. Both Kat and Kevin believe that artists and creatives have a longing for collaboration and gather people together to share experiences and enter into dialogue.
Kathren Martin, creator of the organization and theatre professor at Johnson C. Smith and Winthrop Universities, says, “Every porch I’ve ever sat on in Charlotte was the site of a discussion about what is Charlotte; I believe the community has the answer to that question and I want to help them share it. We want to challenge the too-tidy narrative of Charlotte’s quote-unquote progress,” Martin said, somewhat incredulously. “As a native Charlottean who grew up in east Charlotte, there’s a difference between what I saw happening to neighborhoods in this city and what I read in the paper about it. Art can bridge that gap.”
The brilliant and talented Kat Martin created this immersive theater experience, which she grew from an inspiration board on parchment paper to a full-blown hybrid pop-up and theatrical performance.
FixaPlate offered us the opportunity to dig deeper into the way food, family, development, and culture impacts how we experience life. With input from Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Coullors and benefiting a ton of community partners, Fix a Plate was an imaginative, innovative example of what community theater can accomplish.
Kat Martin knew she needed to do something after the death of Alton Sterling in Louisiana.
She immediately called her colleagues Janelle Burchfield and Tommy Coleman to discuss a plan of action. The trio decided to sleep on it and get their thoughts together.
"By the time I woke up, there was another shooting," Martin said, referring to Philando Castile's death in Minnesota.
"That's when I knew that the vague thought that we had needed to happen and needed to be a platform for everyone."
Let’s see…Dramaturgy is the nerdiest and most academic side of the theatre. I’m responsible for articulating the theory of the piece and being the voice of the text and the playwright in the room. I serve as a fact checker of sorts. A director speaks for the audience; they are in many ways an audience of one. But, a dramaturg speaks for the playwright to ensure that their intent is honored and presented consistently. That means a ton of research and running a fine tooth comb through the script so I can piece together what the playwright is trying to say and what the show “means.”
I am responsible for the literary aspects. That can mean helping to choose scripts in a season while paying careful attention to how they relate to each other. It means doing historical research about the period in which a show takes place or any themes or theories of a script. Then, once rehearsals begin, I become a sort of assistant to the director. I keep my eye out for consistency, work as a go between for playwright and director on new works, and advise actors and directors if any contextual questions come up.
What, exactly, is going on? “In the larger sense, the show is about reality and memory, and dreams, and what is real,” says Kat Martin, the director and writer of “With Your Name.” Scenes don’t need to be in a particular order, and “some are reality, some are dreams; it’s up to the audience to interpret.”
Martin hopes that the audience walks away “with a really long car conversation. I want them to have to piece things together.”
Martin has long been intrigued by the early 1920s, when soldiers tried to pick up their pre-war lives, many suffering from what was then called shell shock and is now recognized as post-traumatic stress disorder. The women who were left behind had tried to keep everything at home exactly the same, so that their men could pick up as if nothing had happened.
This story is based on a real letter written by a soldier the night before a big battle when he thought he wasn’t coming home, but he survived. “What the hell does that do to you?” Martin asks. The show explores what happens when you have changed significantly but your surroundings have not.