Dan Froot and Company brought their one-of-a-kind radio show “Pang!” to Keene State College last week from March 17 to March 19.
Froot, the director of the show, has spent three decades in the performing arts, according to his website. In those 30 years, he’s spent time as a musician, stage performer and dancer, among other roles too numerous to list.
“Pang!” employs many of the talents Froot has honed over the years. The stories are staged as a radio show, with actors reading their lines live in front of an audience. Strewn about the stage, live instruments and “Foley items” are used to add to the soundscape. Foley, the art of mimicking sound through everyday items, plays a large part in setting the scene in these performances. For instance, Thursday evening’s show featured a basketball being spun on a slotted board to simulate a bicycle wheel. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the shows have been pre-recorded for Keene audiences, according to Froot.
“One thing we were interested in with this show was creating a gap between what audiences see and hear,” said Froot. “It’s the audience’s job to take what they see and what they hear and fill in the gap in between… [T]hat work is in the form of empathy; they have to cast themselves into the story and imagine it for themselves,” he continued.
The show is not simply an artistic expression, said Froot. “Pang!” aims to shed light on food insecurity in America. Each half-hour story is based on the real lives of people who have struggled with finding enough good food for their family. Each show still hosts a different issue, while touching upon the ever-present backdrop of food insecurity.
“Food insecurity is nearly invisible [to these families]. It’s a daily irritant, but these other issues are really in people’s faces and urgent on a day-to-day basis,” said Froot.
“Pang!”’s second goal is to get people talking about the issues raised in its segments. Froot said he wants audiences to get “between the ears” of the families represented in this show. That is to say, get in their heads and understand what it’s like to be them.
One way the show accomplishes this is through the Kitchen Table format. When performing in front of a live audience, the cast will mingle with guests and invite a few of them to a six-person kitchen table on the stage. As the performance begins, people at the table are encouraged to quietly discuss the topics among themselves. Anyone may leave or join the table during the show, with extra chairs ready to be added for an especially interactive audience.
During COVID-19, these kitchen table segments have migrated to Zoom. Audience members were encouraged to interact in the chat section while the show plays out.
“The goal is to get everybody talking with each other. Not a Q&A with the artists, but a dialogue among community members, and we’re going to do that in our own way with this online performance…” Froot said.
Even the name “Pang!” holds a deeper meaning. It is both a Foley sound effect, hence the “!”, and a pang of hunger.
“We were interested in finding out what hunger sounds like in America,” Froot said.
Each performance was hosted by a different organization in Keene, according to Sharon Fantl, who handles marketing for the Redfern Arts Center. The Keene Public Health Program hosted Wednesday’s performance, The Wellness Center hosted on Thursday and the Keene Housing Kids Collaborative hosted the last performance on Friday.
At the end of each show, local information is made available in Zoom chat for those who wish to take action in their community and educate themselves on the issues presented. Keene’s 100 Nights shelter, whose mission is to provide shelter and crisis relief for people in Keene, was one of the mentioned groups.
“Food security is certainly one of our priorities,” said Nicole Wood, Administrative Assistant at 100 Nights, “[and] we work with the Community Kitchen… to address it in our area.”
The following resources have been provided by Froot and Company and the Redfern.
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