Whether irradiated, genetically modified, sprayed, or pumped full of antibiotics, the American meal is taking a pummeling from factory farm to home table. Industry speak claims it’s the only way to feed our growing planet effectively, while enviros insist that profit is the real motive and wholesale poisoning the inevitable result.
As agribusiness lobbies against full-disclosure labeling of their “Frankenscience” foods, the pitched battle has resulted in a growing number of books and documentaries. But until now, there hasn’t been much satire, which has been odd since the situation seemed ripe for it. That gap narrows when Arts Society of Kingston presents a one-night-only stage performance of “Mothers of Invention” on August 18.
Set in a future not too far from tomorrow, “Mothers” examines the evolution of a new snack food called KaChing chips. While happy Americans scarf them down by the truckloads, they belatedly discover that KaChing is the result of a shotgun wedding between nature and science, and an unexpected side effect of this new GMO marvel is hallucinations.
The production is written and performed by Laura Poe, a New York actress whose rèsumè includes TV (“Law and Order: SVU”) and film (All the Pretty Horses). “Mothers” is an all-out assault on the food industry, but manages to also savage a number of other institutions and people along the way, including corporate media, junk-food fans, farmers, and green activists—even bubbleheaded talk-show hosts. “Everybody’s your target,” the Texas-born Poe twangs. “There is no saint in the story.”
The idea for “Mothers” began in 2002, after reading an article about GMO food “and the crazy, crazy things going on.” Poe had just finished a one-woman show called “Your Name Here,” lampooning the funeral industry. In the work of ConAgra and Archer Daniels Midland, she saw the potential for another show. But Poe spent two years jotting notes before finally writing a script in 2004.
Initially, Poe envisioned “Mothers” as a show for several actors. However, by the time she was ready to enlist actor friends, they were moving out of Manhattan. Poe decided to play the cast herself, utilizing video so the characters could interact. Among her gallery are Mary Queen, an unctuous commentator suggesting Larry King in drag; Louise, a cold-blooded, smiling Martha Stewart doppelganger and junk-food fan; Tina, a TV personality whose teeth are capped and her breasts enhanced; Jackie the potato farmer; and Darla the corporate climber. The show premiered last year at the New York Fringe Festival. After Kingston, Poe will move on to a Canadian engagement.
While the show may not be the propaganda that whole-food advocates seek, Poe offers provocation as well as entertainment.
“I would like for it to really spur a good conversation over coffee and pie after the show,” she says. Whether that pie is organic or GMO is your choice. Or maybe not.
“Mothers of Invention,” written and performed by Laura Poe, will be staged on August 18 at 8pm at ASK (Arts Society of Kingston) Arts Center. (845) 338-0331; www.askforarts.org.