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Food for Life
Yolanda Shoshana Talks to Clea Rivera

Food for Life is a delicious solo show that takes the audience into the kitchen with a hot and spicy character named Michelle Cassis. The show is conceived, written, and performed by the very talented Clea Rivera. Rivera has appeared in regional work such as the title role in Jose Rivera’s Marisol and as a company member for The Touchstone Center in New York City.

Rivera created the role of Michelle Cassis in a sketch for a show performed at the 2001 NY Fringe Festival. The premise of the show is that a French Chef named Michelle is in town to do a cooking show and her ingredients don't show up on time so she is left to describe the recipe as she waits for the food to arrive. She ends up using the food as metaphors for life, leaving the audience not only with a recipe but with a philosophy of life.

Rivera has an attachment to France, where she actually feels more at home than in the United States. Her great-great grandfather was French and she spent time there as a baby. What attracts her to France is the slower pace and the way the French celebrate life. Rivera’s parents had a passion for cooking which they passed on to their daughter. “Cooking is its own art form for me. It is a creative release. Every time I cooked something in those ensuing years [after she first created the character], I would imagine, "Now how would Michelle Cassis feel about these olives, what would they make her think of?”

This is first solo show by created by Rivera. She has found the experience of creating her own vehicle rewarding, yet not without challenges. “I was able to take my own passions and ideas and bring them to life. Certainly I connect strongly with some roles, but it is almost that I feel Michelle Cassis is another incarnation of me. I have learned in this process, that if I want to have the creative control, independent of the decisions of other people, I need to take charge. Taking charge is a great and scary feeling.”

Initially, Rivera created the show through improvisation so that she would speakthe words as if they are coming out of Cassis’ mouth. As Rivera developed the show, she discovered an important element that was core in becoming Michelle Cassis. “She is a lover. A lover of food, a lover of life, a lover of love. I did not plan on the love stories being so integral to the show, but as I explored the character I discovered that they were part of her and needed to be shared. Though she is vibrant, she has sadness, too. But she knows how to transform the sadness. It is this infectiousness, the way she can just embrace life no matter what that I hope to leave audiences with.”

To find out more about Clea Rivera and where Michelle Cassis will be cooking next. log onto: http://www.myspace.com/michellecassis


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