The first show James and I worked on together was a crazy complicated piece by Caryl Churchill called “The Skriker.” To this day I’m not really sure if it was a play or a musical or even what it was all about. But it was memorably dramatic and edgy and out there. It started with the unforgettable entrance of Jayne Atkinson (the Skriker) breaking through the stage floor, encased in a rubber cocoon and sitting on an armchair covered in real live grass. She sat on top of the 12’ scissor lift and recited a 4 ½ page monologue that started with: “Heard her boast beef a roast beef eater, daughter could spin span spick and spun the lowest form of wheat straw into gold, raw into roar, golden lion and lyonesse under the sea, her in dungeonesse under the castle, spindling swindling dwindling Gwendolyn wheedling.” WTF??
Directed by the intrepid Mark Wing-Davey, and presented in the Public Theater’s Newman Theater, it was a wild and woolly evening of theater. Nothing was out of bounds. Mark set the tone immediately and our rehearsals began with a leisurely game of koosh ball and ended up including field trips to the Bronx Zoo and Bellevue. James’ rehearsal reports (which for some reason I still have) are full of delightful little oddities:
“Does anyone have a newborn baby we could use in rehearsal for a few hours? We’ll take good care of it, but the child shouldn’t be sensitive to being called a slitty-eyed changeling.”
“In the bar scene, the Skriker wants a scotch and soda (don’t we all.) We’ll need an appropriate glass, ice and spoon.”
“The Fair Fairy will only vomit vegetable soup. (Actor is vegetarian.)”
As I recall, there was a lot of food (and mud and water and slime!) used throughout the show. One rehearsal report noted that: “For the Glamour Banquet Scene, Mark wants to use brains (from British cows, of course!), eyeballs (real or fake – you decide), edible ladyfingers and edible meringues.”
Oh that Glamour Banquet! I remember it vividly. The banquet table was laid directly on a large section of the stage deck that lowered so we could quickly we dress it in the trap with the above-mentioned brains, etc., and then raise it up to table height. The number itself was deafening, full of subwoofer and strobe, and the lyrics went something like this:
drink drank drunk
avocado and prawn cockfight cockup cocksuck
red wine or white wash
champagne the pain is a sham pain the pain is a sham
fillet steak fill it up stakes in your heart
black coffee fe fi fo fum
Again, not to sound like a complete Philistine, but WTF does any of this mean?? I still haven’t a clue.
But, I think you can see where this is going – a recipe for meringues! Meringues were, in fact, my first introduction to the Backstage Baker. James made them all the time for the Skriker cast and crew, and took the mystery out of meringue for me. He taught me that meringues are not scary at all, and actually quite simple to make. Just make sure your beaters are scrupulously clean and don’t try to make these on a humid rainy day.
The recipe below got a lot of use over the recent Christmas holidays. But you can easily enjoy these year round. Sometimes I’ll switch out the candy canes and substitute mini-chocolate chips. But these are also perfectly good without any additions at all. Even better, they’re eminently suitable for the gluten-free! (Soon we’ll post a recipe that uses all those egg yolks you’ll be left with.)
2 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 peppermint candy canes, crushed
1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees F. Line 2 cookie sheets with foil or parchment paper. In a large glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar to soft peaks. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat until whites form stiff peaks. Drop by spoonfuls 1 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets. (I like to use a pastry bag or just a zip-top bag with a corner cut out to squeeze the mixture through.) Sprinkle crushed peppermint candy (if using) over the cookies. If using mini-chocolate chips, gently fold them into the mixture before spooning onto cookie sheet.
2. Bake for 1 1/2 hours in preheated oven. Meringues should be completely dry on the inside. (You’ll just have to eat one to test this.) Do not allow them to brown. When they seem done, turn off oven. Keeping oven door ajar, let meringues sit in the oven until completely cool. Loosen from foil with metal spatula. Store loosely covered in cool dry place for up to 2 months.