The Kitchen Table Project was conceived around the time I joined the staff at Invertigo, that is, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. I’d been unmoored for about a year after finishing grad school in June 2019; I knew I didn’t want to go back to the kinds of marketing jobs I had before, and if I were to continue in arts administration in some capacity, I wanted my time to focus less on ticket sales and more on program development and finding money to do all the art and important stuff that got me into the arts in the first place. And so Invertigo became one of my first homes for this new chapter in my life. They pulled up a seat at the table when I wasn’t sure there’d be room for me.
A year and a half later, I decided to spend a few hours of my part-time work at Invertigo painting a thrift-store manifestation of that metaphorical chair that was offered to me when I needed it most.
During our campaign to raise money for The Kitchen Table Project, I offered the idea of creating a physical object on which to express our gratitude to our donors. Since we are inviting folks to join us at the Kitchen Table, we had to save them a seat. So I proposed finding a simple chair on which we could add the names of our community – a chair that could live in some way at our table always, as a thank you and a reminder that our community belonged there.
I found our little Kitchen Table chair at a thrift store in Burbank. It, like me, was ready for a revamp. It is a simple black chair from Ikea. A rehearsal chair, to those of us in theatre. The kind of specimen you’d find in a black box theatre or rehearsal studio, one that always represents something more than itself. One half of a living room couch. A doorway to a bedroom. A tree under which you meet your star-crossed lover. It is adaptable and ready to serve the needs of storytelling. It is seldom just a chair.
I am not a painter or visual artist, and yet I had tasked myself with somehow making this thing beautiful and worthy of these names. I went through a few iterations….taping out color blocks. Changing from latex paint to acrylic. Searching for paint pens. Painting out one design and then painting over it and starting again. I finally settled on a combination of mod podged shapes over a textured background, creating lots of space to fit the white and gold names of our community members.
I may sneak in one name on the underside of the chair. It’s the name of a person who did not contribute to the campaign: my grandmother. Last December 2020, she died of COVID. She and I, in fact, contracted it from the same person. Her caregiver, on the very first day, in fact, that the caregiver came to finally give my mother and I some relief. Before I knew this, before I left for the last time before having to quarantine and be away from her, before the next and last time I saw her as she was dying, we sat at the table playing a game. We always played card games when I was growing up. In her later years she gave up the cards in favor of Rummikub. I don’t remember who won that night, but I’m glad I snapped a picture of her, I’m glad I urged her to play, I’m glad I got to remember the last time we sat at a table together.
When Invertigo’s Artistic Director Laura Karlin asked if my grandmother’s memory could be held as part of the latest Kitchen Table film, it was not a difficult decision. When we experience the last of something, we’re always searching for ways to get it again just one more time, in whatever way we can get it.
So I hope you can join us at the Kitchen Table. I made a seat just for you.