Tony Perucci, a UNC performance studies professor, is directing The Performance Collective’s current show, “Eating Animals,” based on the novel of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer.
The book, which was the summer reading selection for both UNC and Duke University, discusses the issues associated with the contemporary factory farming industry.
SEE THE SHOW
Where: Swain Hall, Studio 6
When: 8 p.m., tonight and Saturday
Cost: $5 for students, $10 for others
Staff writer Sarah Haderbache spoke with Perucci about the show and the ethics of eating animals.
DTH: Why did you decide to adapt “Eating Animals” into a performance piece?
Tony Perucci: The Performance Collective does very politically focused work, so as soon as this book was announced as the summer reading book, I had the idea to do the project. It was the perfect kind of piece for us because it’s about a very complicated and thorny political and ethical issue. It’s not one that has a simple right or wrong position.
DTH: So you wanted to work with a politically problematic issue?
TP: And I wanted it to challenge my own positions. I am not a vegetarian. But I am very thoughtful about what I do buy, and eat and cook. Ever since I was a college student, I had a deep suspicion that there was something ethically suspicious about eating meat. So I did what most of us do: I just didn’t think about it.
DTH: How did the show come together?
TP: It was challenging. Parts of the book, as Foer has written them, are friendly to an adaptation because as he says, the way we justify eating factory-farmed meat is the story we tell about what we eat. It’s also why it’s hard to give up eating meat because eating practices are so bound up with the stories we tell about our culture. Many of the stories of our childhood are bound up with the things we were eating.
So that’s one side of it. The other is our group is a collaborative group. We make work together. Oftentimes, I would give them some type of prompt. Sometimes I’m writing by myself, sometimes they’re doing composition work by themselves and then we lay them on top of each other.
DTH: Did making this project change your perceptions of eating animals and vegetarianism?
TP: I was very curious to see how deeply it would change my eating habits, because my wife is vegetarian and I’m not. So I’m used to cooking my separate meat portion. I haven’t stopped eating meat, but I’m fortunate to live two blocks from the Durham farmer’s market and so I now only buy local meat.
People do know that animals are treated poorly. People do know that if they saw how their meat was treated, they may not want to eat it. But I don’t think they know it’s almost universally the case now and that it wasn’t always the way it is now. And if it wasn’t always the way it is now, then it doesn’t have to always be the way it is in the future.
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