Category Archives: Cre8tive Kitchen

Looking Back – The Who’s TOMMY

I tend to not dwell on the past. The future, after all, is strange and unknown and exciting – so I’m nearly always focused on that. Once a show has opened, I move on pretty quickly. But every now and then, a show comes along that challenges and changes you. For me, that show was The Who’s Tommy. Given that it was five years ago this month that the show opened, I thought it would be fitting to take a look back…

"I'm Free"
“I’m Free”

It began when I was designing a production of Merrily We Roll Along. During rehearsals for that show, the director approached me and mentioned he had two choices for the upcoming summer musical – Disney’s AIDA or The Who’s Tommy. If I recall correctly, I begged him not do AIDA. When he asked why, I told him it was because I could see Tommy in my head. I knew, from the moment he said the title, what the show would look like. One cue sequence “Pinball Wizard reprise” came into my head fully formed, with the final version being virtually identical to my early thoughts.

Poked, prodded, and tested in "Sparks"
Poked, prodded, and tested in “Sparks”

I suppose it goes back to the original 1992 version of the show which brought Broadway kicking and screaming into modern times as far as technology was concerned; largely attributable to the efforts of Wendall K. Harrington and her groundbreaking video design. The narrative of the show, a pop-rock opera with a disjointed story, demanded a unique visual language that Wendall found through video. I was deeply inspired by her work (combining projection with video monitors in an artful, story-driven way) on the original; and quickly added it to the list of shows I wanted to tackle. The initial design brief I wrote proposed an approach that obliterated the line between lighting and video; such that it would be hard to tell which was actually which.

Tommy surrounded by medical "experts"
Tommy surrounded by medical “experts”

I did a significant amount of research in preparing for the show, since I was doing the lighting and video design. I culled through hours and hours of historical footage to craft the opening sequence, which is a little over 15 minutes long; and full of exposition that reveals itself entirely through music and movement without one sentence of dialogue. Grounding the story in the mindset of a specific time and place was important, and the sequence ended up working magnificently.

Captain Walker heads off to war
Captain Walker heads off to war

With each design, I like to try something new. With this show, I used a lot of backlight (fairly typical for me) but this time, I added a lot of texture to the backlight. This gave the show some interesting aerial beam architecture, but even more fascinating was what it did to the stage surface. As the actors moved in and out of the shadows, their movements added to the shadow layers; creating new combinations of color and texture. It’s an idea I have had the opportunity to build on in the years since.

"Eyesight to the Blind"
“Eyesight to the Blind”

Then, I began to experiment with coloring the shadows themselves. This experimentation really paid off in “Eyesight for the Blind” and “Acid Queen”.

The Acid Queen
The Acid Queen

I also experimented with specific color arcs through the show. From the deep blues of the “history” moments, to the light blues of Tommy’s youth, to the colorless aura of his teen years and the blues/greens of the “medical” scenes; to the introduction of yellows in “Acid Queen” (overlayed and penetrating into the blue of Tommy’s youth), and finally to the searing red/yellow combo of Tommy’s rockstar days – I had tremendous fun creating the arc of Tommy’s life with color.

"Pinball Wizard"
“Pinball Wizard”
"Pinball Wizard Reprise"
“Pinball Wizard Reprise”

I also learned how to blend lighting with video and have one serve the other. Many people are worried that lighting will wash out the projected image. By and large, that’s true, but it’s also possible to use lighting (especially in highly saturated tones and with judicious amounts of texture) on top of the video image to create entirely new landscapes.

Tommy gets religion
Tommy gets religion

Mind you, all of this would have been technical overkill had everyone else not been firing on all cylinders; but the cast, crew, musicians, musical director and director were all deeply engaged in the show. It’s not the easiest musical to do, primarily because it hangs on the thinnest of narrative and makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but there IS a story there. For some reason, I’m always attracted to shows that are problematic; and this was no exception. Finding the core of the story took some time.

"Smash the mirror"
“Smash the mirror”

Most directors feel that lighting and video should “gently support the narrative”. Luckily, I was working with a director who allowed me to use the lighting and video language to, in some moments, drive the narrative. It was an incredible experience – visual storytelling that I rarely got to do, at the time.

"Listening To You"
“Listening To You”

The show opened to pretty great reviews and we were lucky enough to remount it about six months later at a larger venue. With most of the cast returning (and reinvigorated by a new choreographer who reimagined the movement of the show, turning it into  a more muscular, visceral piece of theatre) we managed to top the original, which was no mean feat.

"I am the light..."
“I am the light…”

The show also provided me with my favorite review ever, from Paul Hodges of The Orange County Register, “I felt as of the afterlife was beckoning at the end of an explosively lit ‘Pinball Wizard’. KC Wilkerson’s lighting and video design ranges from delicately beautiful to tyrannically overpowering – effective in this narrative context.” I have lit quite a few shows at this post in my life, but there are only a handful that I can claim as my best work – and The Who’s Tommy is near the top.

The cast and crew of The Who's Tommy at Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts
The cast and crew of The Who’s Tommy at Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts
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cre8tive kitchen – Pear and Sausage Asian Salad

PEAR AND SAUSAGE ASIAN SALAD (Serves 4)

Pear and Sausage Asian Salad
Pear and Sausage Asian Salad

INGREDIENTS:

12 OZ Pre-cooked Chicken Apple Sausage, cut diagonally

6 OZ Baby Spinach

2 Large Pears (Asian, preferably), cored and sliced thin

1/2 Cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

1/4 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice

2 TBSP Sesame Seeds

1 TSP Soy Sauce

1 TSP Dijon Mustard

1/2 TSP Sesame Oil

HOW TO:

Toast the sesame seeds in a 12″ skillet over high heat for 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.

Place 1 TBSP of the oil in the skillet with the sausages and cook for 5 minutes or until browned. Turn off heat to cool when done.

While the sausage is cooking, whisk the lemon juice, mustard, soy sauce, and sesame oil until mixed. Then slowly mix in the remaining olive oil. Whisk together until thickened.

In a large bowl, toss the spinach, pears, and sausage. Add dressing slowly to taste while mixing. Plate the salad, sprinkle sesame seeds and serve.

Bon Appetit!

 

cre8tive kitchen – Basil Chicken Stir Fry

BASIL CHICKEN STIR FRY

Basil Chicken Stir Fry
Basil Chicken Stir Fry

This is a great, fast dinner for two.

INGREDIENTS:

2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts

1 Cup Fresh Basil Leaves

2/3 Cup Low-Sodium Chicken Broth

1 TBSP Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

1 TBSP Minced Ginger (Fresh or Bottled)

1 TBSP Soy Sauce

2 TSP Cornstarch

1/4 TSP Hot Chile Flakes

HOW TO:

Cut chicken into 1/8″ strips.

Heat a 12″ frying pan on high. Add oil, garlic, ginger, chile flakes. Stir a couple times around the pan. Add the chicken. Stir often until the chicken is no longer pink.

As the chicken is cooking, mix the broth, soy sauce, and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add to pan and stir for 2 minutes.

Add basil leaves briefly and stir, until they just begin to wilt.

Serve on a bed of white rice.

Bon appetit!

cre8tive kitchen – French Farmhouse Chicken

French Farmhouse Chicken

French Farmhouse Chicken
French Farmhouse Chicken

This is an easy-to-prepare roasted chicken that gets its delectable flavor from garlic (and lots of it).

INGREDIENTS:

1 Roasting Chicken (up to 5 lbs)

4-5 Heads of Garlic

3 TBSP Butter

5 Springs Thyme

4 Sprigs Rosemary

HOW TO:

Preheat oven to 475°. Remove the outer skins from the garlic to reveal the cloves. Peel the cloves (Hint: Place a clove on a cutting board, press gently on it with the back of a spoon, which will crack the skin, making it easier to peel off.) Set aside.

Remove giblets. Rinse the bird, pat it dry, and place it in a cast-iron skillet.

Rub chicken with 1 TBSP of butter. Place a dozen garlic cloves in the cavity of the bird, along with the sprigs of Rosemary, and scatter the rest of the garlic around the pan. Add the remaining butter and sprigs of thyme to the pan. Dust skillet with salt and pepper.

Roast the chicken in the oven, basting with the pan juice occasionally. The chicken is done when the meat thermometer reads 165° (45 minutes-1hr).

Place chicken on a platter to rest for 10 minutes. Resting allows the juices to be drawn more evenly around the chicken.

Carve the chicken and place onto plates. Top with the pan juices and cloves of garlic.

Bon Appetit!

cre8tive kitchen – Maple-Roasted Pears

MAPLE ROASTED PEARS (Serves 2)

Maple-Roasted Pears
Maple-Roasted Pears

Super-easy, incredibly tasty dessert!

INGREDIENTS:

2 Ripe Bartlett Pears

1 TBSP Unsalted Butter

2 TBSP Dark Brown Sugar

2 TBSP Maple Syrup

1 TSP Vanilla Extract

HOW TO:

Preheat oven to 375°. If you prefer them without skin, peel the pears. If not, leave skin intact. Cut pears in half lengthwise and remove the core (a melon-baller works great for this).

Melt the butter in a cast-iron (or oven-proof) skillet over low heat. Add the brown sugar and maple syrup, stir until sugar is dissolved. Add the pears, turning them a couple times to completely coat them in the mixture.

Place the pears cut side down and transfer to oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, basting with the pan mixture occasionally.

Remove the pears from the oven and transfer to a plate. Add the vanilla to the pan juice mixture and stir. If too thick, add a couple tablespoons of water to thin. Pour mixture over pears and serve.

Bon Appetit!

cre8tive kitchen – Endive Avocado Salad

ENDIVE AVOCADO SALAD (Serves 4)

Endive Avocado Salad
Endive Avocado Salad

INGREDIENTS;

6 Slices Thick Bacon

1 Head of Curly Endive, trimmed and chopped to bite-size

2 Heads of Belgian Endive, trimmed and chopped to bite-size

2 ripe avocados, chopped to bite-size

1/2 Cup Crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese

2 TBSP Minced Shallots

1 TBSP Sherry Vinegar (available online or at specialty retailers like Cost Plus)

1/4 Cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper

HOW TO:

Over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp and brown on both sides. Set aside on paper towels to drain. Crumble once cool.

Combine the lettuce, avocado, gorgonzola cheese, and bacon in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the shallot and vinegar. Add olive oil slowly and whisk until fully mixed. Drizzle over salad, toss, salt and pepper to taste.

Bon Appetit!

cre8tive kitchen – Rosemary Potatoes and Carrots

ROSEMARY POTATOES AND CARROTS

Rosemary Potatoes and Carrots
Rosemary Potatoes and Carrots

A very tasty, super-simple side dish!

INGREDIENTS;

1 1/2 LBS Baby Yellow Potatoes, cut into quarters

6-8 Carrots, cut into pieces similar to the potatoes

3 TBSP Olive Oil

2 TBSP Fresh Rosemary (dried can be substituted if necessary)

Coarse Salt and Mixed Pepper

HOW TO:

Preheat oven to 425°. Once the potatoes and carrots are cut, toss with the oil in a large bowl. Pour from bowl into large baking dish, spreading to a single layer.

Sprinkle with rosemary, coarse salt and pepper.

Bake for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway.

Bon Appetit!

cre8tive kitchen – Apple Currant Pork Chops

APPLE CURRANT PORK CHOPS (Serves 4)

Apple Currant Pork Chops
Apple Currant Pork Chops

INGREDIENTS:

4 TBSP Dried Currants (These can be found in the dried fruit section at a specialty grocery like Sprouts.)

3 TBSP Unsalted Butter

1 1/2 LBS Golden Delicious Apples, cored, and cut into about 8 wedges per apple

4 Pork Loin Chops

2 TSP Sugar

HOW TO:

Heat 1 TSP of butter in a large frying pan, add the currants. Cook for about 3 minutes. Move currants from the pan to a small bowl and set aside.

Add 1 1/2 TBSP butter to the hot pan and reduce heat to medium-high. Place the apple wedges in the pan and cook for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally.

Add remaining butter to a separate large frying pan. Set heat to medium-high and add pork chops. Turn occasionally until meat is done (slightly brown and 165° if you’re using a thermometer). Transfer to platter and keep warm.

Sprinkle the sugar over the apples and return the currants to the pan as well. Mix well. Cook for 1 minute. Spoon apples and currants over the pork chops and serve.

Bon Appetit!

cre8tive kitchen – Spinach Apple Side Salad

SPINACH APPLE SIDE SALAD (Serves 2)

Spinach and Apple Salad

INGREDIENTS:

2 Cups Spinach

1 Golden Delicious Apple

1/2 Cup Roasted Pecans

Crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese

Raspberry Vinaigrette

HOW TO:

Roast the pecans at 450° on a flat cookie sheet for about 5 minutes. Chop the apple into smaller-than-bite-size pieces.

Place the spinach in a bowl with the chopped apple. Once the pecans are roasted, let them cool slightly then chop into smaller pieces. Place in bowl. Add raspberry vinaigrette (not too much, just enough to add a little flavor). Toss, then place on plates. Top with a small amount of crumbled gorgonzola cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.

The portions in this can be wildly adjusted to suit your personal taste. This makes a perfect small starter salad.

cre8tive kitchen – Pecan Haricots Verts

PECAN HARICOTS VERTS (Serves 2, with leftovers)

Pecan Hericots Vertes
Pecan Haricots Vertes

INGREDIENTS:

12 oz Haricots Verts or thin green beans

1/2 Cup Roasted Pecans

1/4 Cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

3 TBSP Sherry Vinegar

1 TSP Sugar

1 TSP Lemon Zest

Salt

HOW TO:

Preheat oven to 425°. Spread pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast about 5 minutes. Chop smaller once roasted.

Bring a large pot of water to boil, trim the ends of the Haricots Verts and add them to the pot with a pinch of salt. Cook until crisp (about 5 minutes) then drain.

While the beans are cooking, whisk the sherry vinegar, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt together in a large bowl. While whisking, slowly pour in the olive oil until fully blended (it will thicken as well). Also, grate 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest.

Add the beans and pecans, mix well. Top with the lemon zest. Add pepper to taste.

Bon appetit!