In the chaotic hustle and bustle of a Wall Street restaurant, George – a down-on-his-luck master chef – is facing his last chance to turn his life around. His United-Nations-of-a-kitchen sizzles with two rowdy Guatemalan line cooks, a nosy busboy, and a mysteriously dignified African dishwasher. Set during busy dinner shifts, HOW TO USE A KNIFE bursts with grinding suspense, crackling energy, and piercing surprise as secrets from the past come to a boil.
“Powerful…dramatic…laden with humor, much of it the laugh-out-loud variety. A stunning denouement…”
“…smoothly morphs from boisterous comedy to tense character drama through taut, believable narrative twists …”
…authentic…a unique play attempting to capture a version of reality we seldom see on stage.”
“powerful—and surprisingly very funny…an excellent and meaningful play.”
An Interview with the Playwright—on the experiences that led him to write HOW TO USE A KNIFE
by Emily Taylor • Jan 4, 2017
The characters in William Snider’s newest play, How to Use a Knife, are the result of a one-way ticket to East Africa, an academic thesis and countless nights bussing tables in New York City. Each of them pulls from experiences that Snider had before setting out to write the play. While they weren’t for the sake the script, they all made what is now a rolling world premiere with the National New Play Network.
Emily Taylor: Tell me about the narrative of How to Use a Knife.
William Snider: Sure. So How to Use a Knife is set in a restaurant kitchen in New York. It was an ensemble piece but I guess sort of the primary narrative is a chef who is a recovering alcoholic hits rock bottom and is hired to expedite this kitchen, and it’s his first job since hitting rock bottom. … This is a decent Wall Street restaurant but it’s nowhere near the kind of ambitious culinary environments he worked in before hitting rock bottom. He is trying to elevate it. And in the process he befriends a dishwasher who works at night, who everyone assumes is West African but turns out to have been born in Uganda in the 1970s. I don’t want to give too much away but he played a role in the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide, I guess not the narrative that we are used to in the actual conflict in April ’94. … It’s about the friendship between these two characters and then also the overall question of, how do you move on in your life when you have done bad things to people? Like, when you have hurt others. How do you deal with guilt or second chances when it is impossible to move on from your past?
Emily: What made you decide to create that character arc of the dishwasher connected to the Rwandan Genocide? Is that something you have researched in the past?
William:Yeah, it was a combination of things. I was an African history major in college and wrote my thesis on the origins of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, it was a kind of Tutsi exile army in Uganda that ended up toppling the genocide regime in Rwanda. And I worked for three years in East Africa for an NGO. Separate from that but I had a lot of experience in Uganda, where this character is from. … Then I quit those jobs and was working in New York in restaurants. … I started off for a year and half as a runner and a bus boy, and was fascinated by the fact that this restaurant kitchen was one of the few places in my life in New York where there was real cross demographic interaction, and six identities from each of the stations. All of the line cooks were from Mexico, the dishwashers were from Mali in West Africa. So you had the entire restaurant line speaking Spanish, the dishwasher speaking French, a lot of busboys and runners speaking a mix of English and Spanish. It was this kind of amazing United Nations of interaction back there. … This was during the time of the violence in Mali and I was talking about it with one of the dishwashers on the walk to the subway, and I was struck by how you feel this kind of intimacy with the people you are working with. …
I thought the restaurant setting was a really fascinating place. A lot of my plays are concerned with cross-cultural interaction. I am always concerned with trying to find public spaces where that happens. And I thought of a restaurant kitchen as a place where that happens and a really fun place for that to happen.
William: You know, I think it may be taken that way and I am open to that. I tend to think of my own writing as being a little bit more reflective than responsive, if that makes sense. I am interested in the kind of social realism that could be read as overtly political, but I think I first lead with character situation, location, conflict and then try to tell a really compelling story inside that box. … There may be something inherently political about having people from different backgrounds and seeing them interact. I wouldn’t say that my first impulse is to, well, I really respect it and think it’s amazing when people use art for specific political ends, but I would say I am trying to tell the most compelling story with the characters as possible.
Who’s Who in the Play
STEVE: Early 50s, Rwandan, born in Uganda, black. Speaks with an East African accent. He is the dishwasher in the restaurant, was well educated at home, is carefully spoken, wise, carries himself with dignity. He’s reserved and rather elegant but with strong opinions. Has sadness, but the sadness is deep. He controls it. He is tactical. He has a sense of humor and deadpan. Hides his pain with a smile. Slow to anger. Any anger he has is tactical. He doesn’t yell.
GEORGE: Late 40s/early 50s. American, a New Yorker, half-Irish, half-Puerto Rican. A trained chef, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict picking up his first job since getting sober. Manic, cynical, sarcastic, patronizing, intelligent, blustery, angry, self‐hating – a bull in a china shop, and liable to move from casual shit talking to screaming to apologizing all in the same breath. A natural leader and knows it, as do the employees. A strong presence in his kitchen who takes pleasure in yelling.
MICHAEL: Late 30s, American, white. A hustler. owns The restaurant and is a self-‐made man. A ball of energy, has great attack, very fast talking, blunt, rude, funny, pompous, foul-‐mouthed. A mover and a shaker. He Is of a new generation of cooks who think they’re rock stars. Not a frat boy. Would pick a nice bottle of wine and is maybe okay yes fine, is sexy.
CARLOS: Early 30s, Guatemalan, speaks fairly good English with an accent and must speak Spanish as well. Cook at the restaurant. Intelligent and circumspect, keeps the more volatile Miguel under control. Very much in control of his job and himself, walks a fine line between impudence and respect concerning his employers. A good manipulator. Keeps his place but is very good at veiled sarcasm. He’s playing the long game.
MIGUEL: 30, Guatemalan, Speaks only Spanish for much of the play. The other cook. Fast-talking and sarcastic, even insulting, though his barbs are all in Spanish so he is saying pretty much whatever he wants. Sharp sense of humor and appreciates his own cleverness. The holy fool of the kitchen. Others think he’s crazy. He’s not.
JACK: Mid 20s, American, white. A nice white kid just graduated from a good college. Not traditionally handsome, short maybe or with some acne scars, shouldn’t look like a damn Kennedy. The busboy and runner of food. Wants to be a writer but doesn’t know what to write about. Bides his time with this lousy job. Sincere and open to direction. Wants to be cool. Wants to joke around.
KIM: Mid 30s, American, any ethnicity. Immigration investigator. Self‐assured and crisp. Cuts to the chase and is efficient in her job. Nothing soft about her. She’s the one you send if you want the job done quickly. She is attractive, even though dressed no-nonsense for work. Michael assumes she can be his if he wants her – he’s wrong.
Length & Content
How to Use a Knife runs TBA.
Handicap seating limited for this production. Please call to reserve if needed.
May 19-June 25, 2017
Press Opening on May 26, 2017
Wednesday, Thursday & Friday at 8:00 PM
Saturday at 3:00 PM and 8:30 PM
Sunday at 5:00 PM
- Tickets start at $25 (plus 8% sales tax)
- Prices are subject to change and will rise as performances fill up. GET YOUR TICKETS EARLY FOR THE BEST PRICES.
Bring your neighbors!
Group pricing is available for parties of 10+. Groups of 10-24 receive $3 off the general admission ticket price. Groups of 25+ receive $5 off the general admission ticket price. Call 404.523.1477 x111 or e-mail email@example.com for more information.
Ticket prices are subject to change. Buy early for best pricing. 8% sales tax will be added to all ticket orders. Internet convenience fee added to all online orders. No refunds, exchanges, or late seating.
(To be announced…)
Directed by Carolyn Cook
Reviews & Press
“PASSIONATE (AND FREQUENTLY FUNNY) STORYTELLING”
– A Seat on the Aisle
“GUARANTEED TO SPARK DISCUSSION”
– On the Aisle with Tom Alvarez
“VIVID AND IDIOMATIC”
– Jay Harvey Upstage
“AN EXCELLENT AND MEANINGFUL PLAY.”
– The Davis Enterprise
“ALL ABOUT SECRETS AND LIES…UNIFORMLY EXCELLENT.”
“BLASTS OPEN WITH BOMBASTIC ENERGY”
– The Sacramento Bee
“A RAUCOUS NEW PLAY THAT BEGINS AS AN EXPLETIVE-LACED COMEDY, THEN VEERS INTO SERIOUS DRAMATIC TERRITORY…AN EXCELLENT AND WELL-BALANCED PRODUCTION”
– Capital Public Radio