Spaghetti Dinners are variety evenings presented in cabaret format. Since their inception over 20 years ago, they have given a platform to hundreds of artists for showing new developing work in theater, music, spoken word, dance and puppetry. Each Dinner is a unique one-time-only event, addressing topical concerns with a diverse roster of NYC artists. They are often organized around a theme: reflecting the ritual or social life of the City’s varied populations (Chinese New Year, Purim, Ramadan), a specific historic or current political event (9/11 anniversary, May Day), a performance genre (Punch & Judy, shadow puppets), or cultural hero (Grace Paley, Duke Ellington). The Spaghetti Dinner is a forum for speaking out about current issues. It offers an opportunity for emerging artists alongside seasoned performers, traditional and experimental, and is a testing ground for Great Small Works’ own developing projects. It relies on the participation of a committed group of volunteers. It creates a regular opportunity for collaborations between artists whose backgrounds are ethnically and stylistically different. And the Spaghetti Dinner is fun! A time to sit with friends and strangers over a steaming plate of spaghetti, to spin across the magnificent marble floor of Judson Church to the sounds of the world’s only Klezmer-Punjabi dance band, to hear an Egyptian singer in a public garden, or to stand in a circle and pass a miniscroll through your fingers. Great Small Works manages all aspects of the evening, including programming, promotion, interface with artists and venue, tech rehearsals, hosting, MC’ing, cooking, stage managing, and often performing. Curating each Dinner is itself a creative enterprise, matching ideas with artists, designing a program which both enriches a theme and responds to the constraints of a venue.
Started in an East Village storefront in the 1980s by veterans of Bread and Puppet Theater, Spaghetti Dinners embody GSW’s mission to keep theater at the heart of social life; to address contemporary issues through folk, avant-garde and popular theater traditions and to provide performance opportunities for diverse artists discovering their creative voices. Tickets are sold on a sliding scale, with no one turned away for lack of funds. Spaghetti Dinners honor the diversity of NYC’s rich cultural life by feeding people with food, with art, and with ideas.