How to Use a Knife

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buy_ticketsby Will Snider
Directed by Carolyn Cook

A sharp-edged comedy sizzling with spicy banter and second chances!
In the chaotic hustle and bustle of a Wall Street restaurant, chef George gets a fresh start when he takes over this melting-pot-of-a –kitchen.  Two rowdy Guatemalan line cooks, a wet-behind-the-ears busboy and a reserved African dishwasher serve up drama nightly.   But the heat really turns up when immigration sneaks in, looking for a wanted man. How to Use a Knife bursts with grinding suspense, crackling energy and piercing surprises 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…” Meals from the Marketplace

“…smoothly morphs from boisterous comedy to tense character drama through taut, believable narrative twists …” The Sacramento Bee

…authentic…a unique play attempting to capture a version of reality we seldom see on stage.” KC Studio

“powerful—and surprisingly very funny…an excellent and meaningful play.” The Davis Enterprise

Strong Language – not intended for children

An Interview with the Playwright—on the experiences that led him to write HOW TO USE A KNIFE
NUVO Online

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.

Emily: Did you intend for this play to be seen as a political statement?

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 50’s, 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 40’s/early 50’s. 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 30’s, 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 30’s, 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 20’s, 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 30’s, 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 approximately 1 hours, 45 minutes with no intermission.

Handicap seating limited for this production. Please call to reserve if needed.

Performance Dates

May 19-June 25, 2017
Press Opening: May 26, 2017

Wednesday, Thursday & Friday at 8:00 PM
Saturday at 3:00 PM and 8:30 PM
Sunday at 5:00 PM



General Admission

  • 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 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.


Steve: LaParee Young*
George: Brian Kurlander*
Michael: Brad Brinkley
Carlos: Tony Guerrero
Miguel: Orlando Carbajal Rebollar
Jack: Jeremiah Hobbs*
Kim: Cynthia D. Barker*
Carlos Understudy: Luis Hernandez

Creative Team

Director: Carolyn Cook*
Scenic Designer: Moriah & Isabel Curley-Clay 
Light Designer: Mary Parker
Sound Designer: Thom Jenkins
Props Designer: Kathryn Muse
Stage Manager: Julianna M. Lee*
Assistant Stage Manager: Kayla Zinke

*member of Actor’s Equity Association

Reviews & Press 


Atlanta Arts Scene

Arts ATL

Atlanta INtown

-Audience Rave

– A Seat on the Aisle

– On the Aisle with Tom Alvarez

– Jay Harvey Upstage

– The Davis Enterprise


– The Sacramento Bee

– Capital Public Radio

Audience Buzz

The night I saw the play, the audience was clearly both awed and enthusiastic! There was a pause at the end, as if the solid substance of this drama were sinking in, before the resounding applause and standing ovation that these actors and this production richly deserved. The overheard comments of those exiting echoed my own considerable admiration for Snider’s ambitious text with its assault on barriers of tribe and tongue. His complex stories of cross-cultural relationships emerged provocatively through Carolyn Cook’s able direction. This play, which promises a new playwright of considerable account, most certainly deserves to be seen widely!

I loved HOW TO USE A KNIFE at Horizon Theatre Company. Funny, relevant, diverse, at times heart-wrenching. Excellent writing, impeccably acted and directed. Every time I come back to Atlanta to see theatre I’m reminded how lucky I am to have grown up in a community that holds itself to such a high standard. Great work all! #ATLTheatre #NewWorks

“Knife” was excellent; the set details are fantastic. Great cast. Very good play. Horizon is so impressive. What a blessing this theater is for Atlanta!

Wow! What a magnificent performance! I highly recommend seeing “How to Use a Knife” at Horizon Theatre Company! Now through June 25.

HOW TO USE A KNIFE by @_willsnider at @horizontheatre is spectacular. Go see it, Atlanta! @NewPlayNetwork

If you’re feeling a little dull & looking for excitement to put you on the edge, I suggest How to Use a Knife!

Saw the final preview of How to Use a Knife @horizontheatre last night & you guys don’t want to miss this much Atlanta talent on one stage! Get your TIX!

Fantastic production of #howtouseaknife at @horizontheatre Break legs with the rest of your run!

I saw the play “How to Use a Knife” on Wednesday.  I just wanted you to know that his was absolutely fabulous.  I was moved on so many levels by this play.  It was smart, funny, compelling, and eye-opening. I have found myself thinking about this play all week. The piece itself made me laugh, cry, and think. The piece itself was reflective. Depending on what character you connected with at any given moment gave you a glimpse of another story line, another perspective. Reminding us we have more in common than we think and how we choose to handle the pain of life determines our destiny in away. Chef turned his pain inward when he lost his daughter, Steve turned his pain out toward the world when he lost his. Also, regardless of what life throws at you, you must keep going…. because, life will continue on without you. The acting was epic. It was as if, each of those actors were MADE for those parts. Excellent casting!!!! Your set work was extremely realistic. Your theatre is so intimate that it makes the audience feel like they are in the kitchen and part of the play. Immersed in the play. Thank you for this. It was a great night at the theatre. WELL DONE!!!!! BRAVO !!!!