The Roving Dinner at SPACE on Ryder Farm is dinner and a show like you've never experienced before


Photo by Benjamin Allen, HudValley Photo

SPACE on Ryder Farm, the nonprofit artist residency program located on the Westchester-Putnam border, will hold its ‘Roving Dinner’ on Saturday, September 24. Considered a signature event for SPACE, the Roving Dinner provides community members an opportunity to experience the artistic work that SPACE’s residents produce during their time at the farm while enjoying an intimate farm-to-table dinner with the artists.

Over the span of five hours, Roving Dinner guests will travel to various locations around Ryder Farm. At each location, a dinner course prepared by SPACE’s culinary team is paired with excerpts of plays performed by members of SPACE’s Working Farm writers group. The Working Farm is made up of five playwrights and composer/lyricists who reside at Ryder Farm over five nonconsecutive weeks to nurture and inspire the creation of a new work for the theater.

Playwright Zarina Shea, who participated in SPACE's Working Farm residency in 2021, is one of the performers for this year’s dinner. Shea will share an excerpt from a play she wrote about Peggy Guggenheim, a self-described ‘art addict’ and niece of the late Solomon R. Guggenheim. As Shea’s play is not yet in production, Roving Dinner guests will get an exclusive preview.

Playwright Zarina Shea will perform at this year's Roving Dinner at SPACE on Ryder Farm. (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

This will be the first Roving Dinner Shea has attended, though she’s more than familiar with its reputation as a standout event. “Everyone that’s been to it before talks about it as the highlight experience,” Shea said, adding, “I just keep picturing the fairy lights and that ‘magic hour’ and Chef Min’s cooking.”

Along with Shea, seven other current or former SPACE residents will participate in the Roving Dinner. They include playwrights and composers Emily Gardner Xu Hall, Isaac Gómez, Kareem M. Lucas, Caroline V. McGraw, Sanaz Toossi, Noelle Viñas and Ray Yamanouchi. While at SPACE, artists live and work alongside one another, helping out with farm chores, taking solo time to hone their craft, gathering for ‘family dinners’ where they discuss and debate ideas, and generally advancing their artistic work free from the distractions of everyday life.

“I’ve never had such a transformative experience as I had at SPACE,” Shea said. “It’s a very specific balance of things that SPACE excels at–a combination of seclusion but not alienation. You still get community, but there’s no noise.”

For many SPACE alumni, time at the farm served to transform their artistic visions into finished products ready for the big stage. An extensive body of work that was conceived of, furthered, or completed at SPACE has gone on to win Tony, Emmy, Grammy and other artistic awards of distinction. The Dinner is designed to give a ‘sneak peek’ into that work and the humans behind it.

It’s the SPACE experience that Shea credits with helping her evolve her play to a level of quality she feels she would not otherwise have achieved. “I was able to go to some vulnerable, scary places because of the environment at SPACE and the people I was there with. Without those people, this play wouldn’t exist.”

Later this month, as Roving Dinner attendees move among the various historic venues at the farm–whether the grassy fields or the gazebo, the old barn or the dock near the lake, Shea hopes each guest will take with them a little bit of SPACE magic.

“I’d love for attendees to be able to dive into this little world that I’ve built,” Shea said of her play. “The excerpt is the very beginning of the play, so I’ll welcome them into that and then I just want guests to ‘get’ SPACE and how important it is. It’s really a rarity. It’s the real thing.”

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