Melissa Leilani Larson returns to Plan-B with THE EDIBLE COMPLEX following PILOT PROGRAM in 2015. Other recent productions include PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (BYU), MARTYRS’ CROSSING (Edinburgh Fringe), LITTLE HAPPY SECRETS (SLAC’s Fearless Fringe). Current projects: JANE AND EMMA (Clearstone Productions), EAST OF THE SUN (workshop, Nautilus Music Theatre), SWEETHEART COME (2016 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference semi-finalist). Film: FREETOWN (2015 Ghana Movie Award, Best Screenplay). Dramatists Guild ambassador for Utah, MFA from Iowa Playwrights Workshop.
THE EDIBLE COMPLEX, created specifically for grades 4-6, opens October 8 with a public performance as part of Repertory Dance Theatre’s RING AROUND THE ROSE Series before touring to more than 40 elementary schools in 6 counties as Plan-B’s 4th annual Free Elementary School Tour (presented in Davis County by Davis Arts Council and in Wayne County by the Entrada Institute). THE EDIBLE COMPLEX includes ten foods as characters that Mel likes an awful lot. Yes, the Food acts too. She we asked her to tell us why!
1. The Grilled Cheese Sandwich is the first food to make an appearance in THE EDIBLE COMPLEX, and for good reason. It’s one of the first things I learned to cook for myself when I was a kid, and it’s still very much a favorite. So simple to make, and yet incredibly satisfying. And—like the Grilled Cheese in the play says herself—so good with a tall, cold glass of chocolate milk.
2. Sometimes I trick myself into being healthful. Sometimes friends help. A good friend who is a great cook often invites me to join him and his family for dinner. One thing he makes that I never tire of: Turkey Tacos. Supposedly ground turkey is a more healthful choice. But then I smother it in cheese and sour cream anyway.
3. It just gets a very brief mention in the play, but Carrot Casserole is a family legend. My Great Aunt Linda invented it, and lots of kids in the family are thankful that she helped make carrots more tolerable. In the early 1980s my dad entered the recipe in a contest and won $50, which he split with Aunt Linda.
4. Pasta is one of my mainstays. I have great memories of my Dad’s Spaghetti Sauce, loaded with ground beef and button mushrooms, and with just a little sugar to cut the acidity of the tomato sauce. Dad still makes it exactly the same way, and it’s great. I sprinkle parmesan on the noodles before I add the sauce to melt the cheese.
5. My mom loves Chicken Wings. She will buy them frozen in big bags and then pan fry them. She, my aunts, my sister and I will sit around the table with a big plate of chicken wings and talk story until just a pile of clean bones are left. No one can clean meat off the bone like a group of Filipina ladies.
6. I love when the taste of food makes for a pleasant surprise. When I was in college I went to London for a week—my first big trip abroad flying solo. After dinner one night I ordered a Waffle Sundae for dessert. It had vanilla ice cream served on a hot waffle, with maple syrup sauce and bits of candied nuts and bacon. I felt so brave at the time.
7. Ice cream. Root Beer Floats. Sundaes. Yeah, there’s a theme. No, I’m not ashamed.
8. Another quick cameo in the play is one of my favorite dishes from the UK. Fish and Chips! The best is when they give you a long slab of cod, freshly fried, on top of chips that range from mushy to crispy, all wrapped in paper. I would sit on the curb with a can of Coke, unwrap the paper in my lap, and sprinkle the whole thing with salt and malt vinegar. Sad part is we just don’t make it the same way in the USA.
9. So I have several good friends who are redheads. One of them told me a joke: “What do you call a redhead throwing a temper tantrum?” When I started working on this script, I knew the joke and it’s an answer—a Ginger Snap—would have to be in it. No question.
10. So I love a good Cheeseburger. This should shock no one. I’m not talking fast food. I’m talking ground chuck grilled on a toasted bun, with real cheese and mayo and juices that run down your chin when you take that first bite—that first bite that hardly fits in your mouth. When people ask me what it’s like to see your play performed, I tell them straight-up: it’s not really a feeling you can describe; the closest thing it comes to is the first bite of a really good cheeseburger.