Bread baking plays main role in Alliance Theatre’s 1-woman show ‘Knead’

The one-woman show seems to be a trend in Atlanta lately. And it's not just the solo female on stage, but a gal that is cooking.

Souper Jenny owner Jenny Levison is currently wrapping up her gig under the lights at the Georgia Ensemble Theatre in Roswell. During "I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti," the restaurateur-actress cooks a meal from scratch and serves it to audience members sitting onstage . After this weekend, Levison will set the spoon down. A couple of days later, Mary Lynn Owen will pick it right back up and start stirring center stage.

Longtime Atlanta actress, and now playwright, Owen will take to the Alliance Theatre’s Hertz Stage at the Woodruff Arts Center in Midtown for “Knead” Nov. 13 through Dec. 9. Owen is both playwright for this world premiere as well as the single cast member of a show that sees her baking bread in real time.

>> RELATED: The AJC's review of "I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti"

>> RELATED: What's yet to come in the Alliance Theatre's 2018-19 season

The gist of this autobiographical play sees Owen baking bread in the wee hours of the night. While the sane world sleeps, she is determined to make a success out of the incomprehensible recipe from her baking-obsessed mother (obsessed as in, one morning some years ago, Owen woke up to 35 loaves of various shapes, sizes and flavors that her mom had baked overnight).

Owen, who was raised in Snellville, is the daughter of a Cuban mother who loved to bake and a straight-laced, Georgia-bred father. The play explores these roots.

“I think my mother was always trying to squeeze herself into the right box. The box never fit,” she said.

Owen grapples with the cultural conundrum on stage as she mixes, kneads, shapes and bakes bread.

“Bread is a lot about transformation. Each step is dependent on the step before, and is critical in the end result,” Owen said, calling bread a “fascinating metaphor for life.”

The risk in the 90-minute live performance is that the bread making may go south.

“The dough is my fellow actor — and audience, if you will,” Owen said. “There is a built-in risk, which is a lot like cooking and life. We just have to see how it turns out.”

As with Levison’s Bolognese sauce in “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti,” “Knead” is multisensory. The aroma of baked bread during rehearsal has attracted everyone from stagehands to maintenance crew workers, Owen said.

Just as sight and smell will commingle in Owen's performance, so, too, do cultural ties. The interweaving of cultures has been a common theme in other creative works of late. Local culinarians Von Diaz, Todd Richards and Eddie Hernandez explore the interstices of their diverse backgrounds with the lives they now live in the South in their respective cookbooks, "Coconuts and Collards,""Soul" and "Turnip Greens & Tortillas," all published this year.

When asked if this is something new within the creative arts, Owen replied, “It feels there is more of an embracing of ‘Tell us who you are. Tell us where you are from.’ Maybe we are becoming more inclusive. Maybe we all need to sit down, eat with each other and share cuisine.”



Nov. 13-Dec. 9. $10-$45. Alliance Theatre, Hertz Stage, 1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-733-5000,