For “Curious Dinners Season #2” we added more details and learned some more lessons. As with each dinner, there was way more learned and experienced that I can write about in a post. Here’s a few highlights and memories.
The addition of the TV was easy in theory but turned out to have a few annoying hiccups. One of the hardest ones was how to make the TV look “off” and the suddenly show a program and then go back to off. I didn’t want to show start up screens, screen savers, play/ff/rw buttons, mouse pointers, etc. Youtube was out because it always has their logo at the beginning and the mouse would show. Just playing from a laptop shows the laptop program. Using a chromecast would do similarly. Eventually I used a slideshow from LibreOffice and dedicated a whole mac to the solution. The “off” was a black slide and the videos were put on individual slides. That was years ago and I still don’t have a better solution. The TV also required another cable running through the room.
There were a lot more lighting changes with these new skits. This required there to be two people in the control room most times.
A lot of things happened right after each other. The Chuckle hut went right into Oprah and then alost immediately into the final number. Despite having lots of hosts, we all had to hustle on the blocking. I had to change and run around the side of the house with the saxophone. Getting the timing right on the entrance was tricky but worth it.
Costumes and props had to be kept in various locations since actors could enter the dining room from 4 different locations, 3 of which weren’t connected backstage.
The duet was a hit every time we did it. Ending on a big musical number would be something we’d do from here on out.
The “kitchen cam” videos took longer to make than I anticipated. The plots weren’t super thought out and I cringe at parts. Despite the faults, this helped me understand how we could better integrate video on the TV into the dinners and helped lead the way to much better videos in following seasons.
Some people did not like the confetti being thrown in their face. I think it was too aggressive but the rest of the entrance was well received.
We might have had too much content. Guests would sometimes continue to talk after a new “thing” had started. I think we could have made less and let the guests talk more. If the goal was to have them enjoy their evening the most possible, we might have achieved this with less effort on our part. We gave them a lot to talk about for sure. We could have given them more time to do that talking. This is something to consider for future experiences I create. “Just get the energy going and then back off” might provide the highest ROI in many cases.
During one of the nights we asked our friend Graham to video tape the performance. While Graham tried to remain in the background as much as possible, we had a few issues. First, we didn’t tell guests we were going to do this until they showed up. Not a good idea. Second, due to the absurdist nature of the show, they were never sure if Graham really was recording or was going to be a part of the show somehow. I was surprised to get a request afterward from one of the guests to never share the videos. In the future we did not videotape but if we do again everyone will know this going in.
I haven’t spoken much about the food prep. Mainly because I played very little role in it. The first season Vianca cooked and the second Iain cooked. Much of it was done in advance of the dinners so that we didn’t have to do much work in my little terribly ill-equiped kitchen.
The food of all the dinners was usually well-received. Even from people who were very non-vegan.