Thursday, January 18

Fermentation Symposium at The Theatre of Yugen on December 30-31, 2017


Fermentation Symposium
Theatre of Yugen,2840 Mariposa Street, San Francisco
December 30-31, 2017
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Much more than “dinner theater” or even “adventure dining” Theatre Yugen is inviting foodies and live-theater fans to The Fermentation Symposium this coming Dec. 30 and 31 for an exploratory process that seeks to combine the aesthetics of food with the aesthetics of live performance. 

SF Sonic was able to reach out to Theatre of Yugen. Speaking on behalf of this one-of-a-kind endeavor, artistic director Nick Ishimaru, said, “While dinner theatre or madrigal dinners are the obvious parallel to this production, Fermentation Symposium seeks to move beyond that. It is drawing additional inspiration from more avant garde practices, like the famed ritual of breaking bread at the Bread and Puppet theatre that gave rise to artistic luminaries like Julie Taymore, where the consumption of food is integral to the performativity of the event.”
He explained further by saying. “The inspiration for The Fermentation Laboratory is the chemical process behind how organisms interact and develop into something new.  Since these changes occur on such a micro level, in a way that is so hard to see for the lay person, but results in something totally unique and new, we felt the essence of yugen, a subtle, hidden, intangible grace, in that mysterious, invisible world.”
For those of us not so inclined to think science when it comes to food, there is probiotic yogurt and the current craze of Kombucha tea. Ishimaru pointed out that while we might think of Kombucha and Kefir as the latest food fad, a mold or fungus has been used to ferment and process foods in Japan for centuries.
One such fungus unique to Japan is called, ‘koji,’ it helps give some of the cuisine of Japan, such as Sake, the familiar soy sauce and Miso, its unique flavor. 
Bringing together theater art and the composition of food was not an easy task. Yet, the result is a special performance collaboration between Theatre of Yugen Artistic Director Nick Ishimaru, U.S./Japan Cultural Trade Network’s Kyoko Yoshida, AEDAN Fermented Foods chefs Mariko Grady and Eri Shimizu, Dr. Carol A. Ishimaru, Professor of Plant Pathology at the University of Minnesota St. Paul and an expert in microbial education and teaching science through performance, Bay Area-based contemporary dance artists Megan and Shannon Kurashige of Sharp & Fine dance company, and Shinichi Iova-Koga of inkBoat dance company.
Ishimaru sees this symposium as capitalizing on the opportunity to collaborate with top artistic, culinary, and scientific talents. “We have developed a multi-sensual performance combining food and performing arts that brings to mind the aesthetic quality of what we refer to as ‘yugen’ – an indescribable beauty that is perceived with our deepest senses.”
Serving as co-director as well as the visionary for this production, Yoshida is honored and very pleased.
“Because it is a little unconventional, it has taken some time and efforts to get the concept of the project understood before it was authorized to begin.  Once we started the process, said Yoshida it became much easier as the artists and the creative team embraced the concept right-away and shared the joy of collaboration, building a great relationship among each other.”
Cast and crew and everyone involved are excited to have the audience experience something truly special and not like anything else out there. “’I’ve been feeling the magic of Koji, said Yoshida. (Aspergillus Oryzae), the the scientific name for the Japanese fungus Koji. It is a microbial powerhouse, transforming not just food, but inspiring all of us involved.”
This communal dinning-performance experience will definitely be a fantastic way to ring in the New Year
For more information, see this website



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Jonathan Farrell is a San Francisco Bay Area journalist who freelances regularly for local publications.

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