Frank and Basishvili, who hails from the Republic of Georgia, found that home at the Savoy at Curtis Park, an 1889 landmark in the Five Points neighborhood. With help on the business side from Frank’s brother, Scott, they set out to bring the space to life.
“As a company, we’re excited to explore local stories and issues in collaboration with the community, telling a narrative of changing Denver,” says Frank. “How do we provide a space for those who don't have fiscal means?”
In answer to that question, they joined forces with the experimental-theater collective Grapefruit Lab and actor/playwright Jeff Campbell to launch the Recipe Project, a community story-sharing project supported in part by a City of Denver Imagine 2020 grant. The idea is to solicit and gather oral narratives that will eventually be fleshed out in a stage dramatization. Frank predicts that the final product, a roving performance in and around the Savoy, will come to fruition by 2020.
The Recipe Project is starting small, and every little story inspires. Frank cites a conversation with Michael Martinez, a co-owner of Rolling Pin Bakeshop on Welton Street, who was intrigued to hear that the Savoy once housed a bakery in its basement: “He said, ‘I wonder if this is the building my grandma came to as a little girl. She said she loved the bakeshop and would always pull on the guy’s apron when she visited.’ It’s a cool thing to think that might have happened.”
After doing research at the Blair-Caldwell Library, Frank learned that the bakery in Martinez’s grandmother’s memory wasn’t at the Savoy. But it sparked a clearer vision for a storytelling project.
On Saturday, March 30, the Recipe Project collaborators will launch the first in a series of public story circles at the Savoy, designed to share recollections around the theme of “food, memory, home and belonging” while fostering understanding between incoming artists and an established community that often feels under siege from gentrification. The story circles will start with the breaking of bread as an icebreaker and gateway to the memories of participants.
“Proust wrote a thing about how he's eating a cookie given to him by his aunt, and it brings up all these memories of his life in Paris," notes Basishvili, whose Georgian roots immerse him in reminiscences of food and family. In lieu of Proust’s symbolic madeleine in Swann’s Way, prompts will be used to evoke lost stories.
The Savoy itself is also a ready talking point, simply through its historical significance. “Recipes will be a fun way to open the new space. We’ll be going back to the root of something we all share and interpreting that through our own art process," Rada says.
“I’m increasingly interested in dialogue that doesn't compromise the innate integrity of regular people,” she adds. “We have no artistic standards — high art should not be exclusive from any conversation. We all have different experiences, but what matters is what people remember.”
But Campbell admits he had another motive for coming on board: “When they told me there was going to be food, that sealed the deal.”
As the project grows, there are other possibilities that might come into play: for instance, building a recorded story archive for future generations. “Most of all, it has to be interactive,” Frank explains. “People need to have the opportunity to interact with each other and have a chance to tell their own stories. It’s fun and challenging, and we have no idea what will happen; it will be different every time. And then it will be the artists’ job to get all the information together and find out how to filter the ingredients to make a tasty cake.”
The Recipe Project will host its first Story Circle session from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 30, at the Savoy at Curtis Park, 2700 Arapahoe Street. A second circle is scheduled at the same time and place on Saturday, April 13. Admission is free, but an RSVP is requested in advance at eventbrite.com. Bring stories and an open ear. Learn more about the Recipe Project and future events at the Theatre Artibus website or on the Facebook page.