Founded by veterans of Vermont’s Bread & Puppet Theater in 1978, the Spaghetti Dinners began in a storefront on East Ninth Street as informal evenings for neighborhood residents and members of the downtown theater community, combining puppet theater, New Orleans brass band music, and healthy portions of spaghetti with fresh garlic.
Today, the Spaghetti Dinner still works with the same formula – home-made vegetarian pasta, new performances in theater, puppetry, dance, film, spoken word and live music. It is a venue for both emerging and veteran performing artists to show excerpts of developing work, and for Great Small Works, its audience, and friends to celebrate the political and ritual calendars of New York City.
These one-time-only events feed both participants and audiences with spaghetti, with art and with ideas. On Friday, April 14, for the first time in Queens, Great Small Works presents an evening of developing puppetry as part of its long-running Spaghetti Dinner series that showcases new work that responds to current trends. Tickets are available here.
The event promises to feature puppets, music, and pasta – feeding you with food, with art, and with ideas. Participating will be Chinese Theatre Works, Phyllis Chen and Stephen Kaplin, Cecilia Gentili, Valeska Populoh, Charles Graham, Judith Berkson, Abigail Levine, the Something Positive Performing Arts Company, and the Aftselokhis Spectacle Committee.
Great Small Works Spaghetti Dinners are supported in part by a grant from the Puppet Slam Network www.puppetslam.com, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
Great Small Works was founded in 1995 by a collective of six artists—John Bell, Trudi Cohen, Stephen Kaplin, Jenny Romaine, Roberto Rossi and Mark Sussman–to create theater of high artistic quality, and to keep theater at the heart of social life.
The company draws on folk, puppet, avant-garde and popular theater traditions to address contemporary issues. Great Small Works performs in theaters, schools, parks, libraries, museums, prisons, street corners, and other public spaces, creating original theater pieces on many scales, from gigantic outdoor spectacles with scores of volunteers, to miniature shows in living rooms.
In their international festivals and Spaghetti Dinner cabarets, Great Small Works collaborates with artists from varied traditions, provides performance opportunities for artists in diverse genres, and engages the participation of young artists in the process of finding their own voices. In community-based pageants and parades, the company works with groups of students, activists and artists to address issues of common concern.
On any scale Great Small Works productions seek to renew, cultivate and strengthen the spirits of their audiences, promoting theater as a model for participating in democracy.
“We value the beauty and potency of puppet theater, the urgency of speaking out about the news of the day, the joy of creating theater with diverse groups of citizens, and the power of bringing art to the streets,” according to their bio. “We work for intelligent and engaged content in our work…We want to show everyone that they have a story to tell, and they can do it themselves.”
Great Small Works received a 1997 Obie Award, 1997 and 2008 UNIMA-USA Citations for Excellence, and the 2006 Puppeteers of America Jim Henson Award for innovation in puppetry.