Donner Dinner Party

It occurred to me that I have done a bunch of stuff recently, so I should probably dust this ol’ blog up and update people on what I’m doing.

Just got done production managing an epic rock opera for the Baltimore Rock Opera Society featuring kaiju, puppetry and romance / life lessons about co-dependency. Check out the on-demand video here.

I haven’t totally sworn off performance – for our cast / Christmas-ish themed party, we were asked to share spooky winter tales. Myself and a friend submitted a (mostly) edible re-telling of the Donner Party expedition, naturally. For those unfamiliar with the Donner Party, this refers to a notorious failed expedition in the 1840s of Midwestern pioneers, who became stranded in heavy snowfall while trying to reach California. The survivors of the expedition famously resorted to cannibalism to make it through the winter months. There’s a puppet history episode which recaps many of the grimmer moments of the expedition; for a more in-depth recap, check out the excellent podcast Overlanders, as well as the book The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride by Daniel James Brown. Both these latter two resources do an excellent job covering the events from a humanistic perspective, showcasing the humanity of everyone involved – something we did not really have time to do, in our silly food-based goof.

I had long wanted to do a live version of The Feast, somehow, which was loosely inspired by the Donner Party events (or what broad historical gestures I knew of it at the time I pitched and wrote my puppet feature). We were only given (less than) ten minutes for the performance itself, and I only have so many hours in the day to cook and prepare elaborate foodscapes. I certainly want to tackle this again as part of a leisurely 7 course dinner spanning over a day or two, perhaps – there’s a LOT in this story to chew on.

Since the lighting in this video has washed out some of the foodscapes, here are some photos that I took prior to transporting the items to BROS HQ:

Front: George Donner and his brother at Alder Creek, near the wagon that would tip over and injure George’s hand. Back: The party travels across America, from plains to mountains.
The people, whose heads are made of peanut butter balls. (These are easy to shape and color; difficult af to actually eat and swallow quickly while also narrating about cannibals).
One of the chocolate oxen bonbons, in front of a covered wagon of marshmallows and graham crackers.
The Hastings Guidebook, which really doomed all of these poor souls. Made of tortilla and bound with a green onion. Inside (which I neglected to photograph), I had painted a hasty map and an “LOL”.

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