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Arts Eclectic turns the spotlight on happenings in the arts and culture scene in and around the Austin area. Through interviews with local musicians, dancers, singers, and artists, Arts Eclectic aims to bring locals to the forefront and highlight community cultural events.Support for Arts Eclectic comes from Broadway Bank and Rock n Roll Rentals.

'They're a buffet': Seven storytellers share 'Stories About Comfort Food'

Color Arc Productions

“We were trying to think about something life affirming,” says Color Arc Productions founding producing director Christine Hoang. “We want to bring people together, build community, feed the soul. So we asked ourselves, ‘what's something that heals you?’ And the answer was food.”

Hoang is discussing Color Arc’s upcoming storytelling showcase Stories About Comfort Food, which is exactly what the title implies – a collection of stories centered around the idea of comfort food. “We have seven storytellers ranging from a Netflix dating show celebrity, a millennial comedian and filmmaker, a celebrated Austin playwright, a journalist-turned-mosaic artist, a writer and tarot card reader, a retired navy chief, and an 82 year old Vietnamese American grandmother,” Hoang explains, adding “by the way, that grandmother is my mom and I'm flying her in from New Orleans. She's very excited to tell this story.”

Hoang, who’s producing the event and will also serve as the evening’s emcee, notes that some of the stories that came her way were more bittersweet than she’d expected.

“When I say comfort food, now I'm realizing that we seek the comfort because we have pain, we have some wounds, we have some hurt,” she says. “And so a very natural, soothing thing to turn to is nourishment. And a lot of common themes are loved ones who we turn to. And one way they give us [and] show us love and spiritual hugs is through dishes. And also, how we turn to [comfort food] as an immediate way to find some kind of way to regulate ourselves and get down to a sense of calm and soothing. So, yeah, it's gonna be funny. We have funny stuff, but it's also going to be pretty honest and vulnerable. And that was a big surprise to me when the storytellers shared their stories with each other. And it immediately created a sense of family. So we had a really nice Thanksgiving dinner of sorts when we all shared the stories and that's what we want to share with the Austin community. Let's kind of reinvent what a Thanksgiving meal can look like, in July in the air conditioning.”

One of the storytellers, comedian/actress/writer Yola Lu, will share a story about the food her mother makes for her when she needs comfort. “My story is mostly about heartbreak. And because I have been kind of actively dating [recently], there's been a lot of heartbreak so far. But there was one that like really stood out in particular – and this was while I was still back at home in Seattle. So my mom really took care of me, and the way that a lot of Asian parents take care of their kids is through food. And so she really made me things that I always loved when I was a child in order to make me basically stop crying all the time.”

For Lu, a particularly comforting food is an egg dish that her mother makes but Lu herself hasn’t been able to replicate. “It's really just like a beaten and steamed egg with soy sauce in it,” she says. “And I don't know how to make it, but it's super good. She would make it when I was sick; you could just swallow it and you don't have to chew. And so she made this for me again when I was kind of going through heartbreak. And, I just thought that that was very kind and sweet and loving of her – to do that, even though… I could still chew my food. But it was a nice touch.”

Playwright Max Langert, who’s also sharing a story about his mother and food, says he hopes audiences find the same sort of connection the seven storytellers have found together. “As Christine mentioned, we all sort of got together for dinner and told the stories and I think there's a real feeling of connection and community within the stories and they're all so heartfelt,” he says. “And I think it just will probably remind the audience of their own comfort stories and their own sort of connections and community. The stories really do reflect that feeling of togetherness, I think in a way that is really special.”

“They're a buffet of heartfelt, healing humorous stories from the heart,” Hoang says. “And all of our Southern storytellers – whether they were born and raised in Oakland, Seattle or Vietnam – they are very generous with what they're going to serve."

'Stories About Comfort Food' happens Saturday, July 29 at Austin Cinemaker Space. There will be three ASL interpreters present, including a Vietnamese interpreter. It's a free event and will include a screening of the new trailer for Color Arc's upcoming short film 'Pizza My Heart.'

Mike is the production director at KUT, where he’s been working since his days as an English major at the University of Texas. He produces Arts Eclectic, Get Involved, and the Sonic ID project, and also produces videos and cartoons for When pressed to do so, he’ll write short paragraphs about himself in the third person, but usually prefers not to.
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