Chicago's TimeLine Theatre's To Master the Art: A Recipe for Success.

Gille (Joel Gross, left) pours a glass of wine for Julia Child (Karen Janes Woditsch, center) and Paul Child (Craig Spidle) as they enjoy their first dining experience in France in TimeLine Theatre’s world premiere of TO MASTER THE ART by William Brown and Doug Frew, directed by William Brown. For more information, visit timelinetheatre.com. Photo by Lara Goetsch.

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Julia Child (Karen Janes Woditsch, left) and her collaborator Simone “Simca” Beck (Jeannie Affelder, right) have passionate debates about the recipes they will include in their new cookbook in TimeLine Theatre’s world premiere of TO MASTER THE ART by William Brown and Doug Frew, directed by William Brown. For more information, visit timelinetheatre.com. Photo by Lara Goetsch.

“I need something to dooooo,” Julia Child (Karen Janes Woditsch) cries out early in the opening act of TimeLine Theatre’s To Master the Art.  The year was 1948, the newly married Paul (Craig Spidle) and Julia Child had just settled in Paris.  Paul had been sent to work in Paris for the U.S. State Department.  Ten years older than Julia, Paul possessed a certain sophistication and a knowledge of the language that Julia lacked.  The couple had just finished a memorable lunch at La Couronne (The Crown) in Rouen, France where Paul made all the right moves and Julia was reduced to a singular “oui”–her only response to what was happening around her.  She knew this had to change.

Of course, we all know the rest of the story–Julia found something to doooooo! She learns to cook and in typical Julia-style refuses to start anywhere but the top.  She bulldozes her way into the snooty Cordon Bleu cooking school where she is given the cold shoulder by the owner, Madame Brassart (Ann Wakefield)–but through determination and perseverance, Julia prevails.

To Master the Art tells the story of Julia and Paul Child by visiting pivotal moments in their lives as they embark on a transatlantic journey of discovery together. The play captures the post World War II mood in Paris and the underlying tensions and paranoia of the McCarthy era in America.  It depicts the wonderful love story of Julia and Paul, even adding a sensory element as Chef Bugnard (Terry Hamilton) demonstrates how to properly crack and gently mix the eggs for ‘oeufs brouilles’ with the steam ascending above the pan and drifting into the audience–no pretense–it’s the real thing.

TimeLine’s world premiere of To Master the Art–the first
full production of a play for TimeLine

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Julia Child (Karen Janes Woditsch, from left) learns to cook at Le Cordon Bleu with instructor Chef Max Bugnard (Terry Hamilton) with three American GIs (Ethan Saks, Ian Paul Custer and Joel Gross) as classmates in TimeLine Theatre’s world premiere of TO MASTER THE ART by William Brown and Doug Frew, directed by William Brown. Photo by Lara Goetsch.

since it’s inception, 13 years
ago was commissioned in 2008.  The seed for the play was initially
planted in 2006 when TimeLine’s Artistic Director, P.J. Powers met with director and co-playwright William Brown, who Powers credits for putting TimeLine “on the map” 10 years ago, with their first big hit Tennessee Williams’ Not About Nightingales (2000).  From that point the idea was developed and Brown brought aboard co-writer Doug Frew.

The cast of To Master the Art features a talented line-up of actors.  Karen Janes Woditsch, as Julia, nails Julia–her intelligence, vulnerabilities, sense of humor and spirit–have some comparing Woditsch to Meryl Streep (Julia, in the 2009 movie, “Julie and Julia”) and saying she may even be better. Craig Spidle as Paul Child is completely believable as Julia’s husband–he’s tough when he needs to be tough, affectionate, intelligent, liberal and totally in tune with Julia.  Amy Dunlap plays a wacky and likable Jane Foster Ziatovski, the liberal–one time communist–friend of the Childs.   Julia’s co-cookbook author and friend, the very French Simone Beck is captured beautifully by Jeannie Affelder who plays multiple roles in the play.  Terry Hamilton, who recently appeared as Nixon in TimeLine’s Frost/Nixon played the duel roles of the doting Cordon Bleu Chef Max Bugnard and Julia’s father, Big John McWilliams, the wealthy conservative who disapproves of his daughter’s lifestyle and husband. 

The set is creatively used through out the play functioning as the Child’s pied-a-terre, Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, the interrogation room and the restaurant.  A clever device used for bringing news from the other side of the ocean without constructing a separate set was done through the use of letters that were read by the letter-writer who appeared on set reading their letter.

Show Information and Tickets.
Tickets are $28 (Wednesday through Friday) and $38 (Saturday and Sunday).  They are available online at timelinetheatre.com or the TimeLine Theatre Box Office at (773) 281 8463.
PLEASE NOTE: The play runs approximately 2 hour 20 minutes including one 10-minute intermission.

Study Guide.
If you haven’t been there already, go to the TimeLine website and download their study guide for To Master the Art.  The guide provides an excellent historical background to the play and the life of both Paul and Julia.  Even if you don’t go to the play (don’t tell anyone I told you), the 29-page study guide is fascinating reading–I learned more from it than I did from the two books I read on Julia–“Julia and Julie” and “My Life in France.”

Dining Suggestions.
In the spirit of To Master the Art, there are two French-themed restaurants near TimeLine: La Creperie, located 2 blocks from TimeLine at 2845 N Clark St., and Mon Ami Gabi, located a short drive away at 2300 N. Lincoln Park West–enjoy and “bon appetit!”.

Parking.
Discounted parking is available for the price of $8 for up to 6 hours with validation at two lots nearby:  Broadway at Surf Public Parking, 2846 N. Broadway and Century Shopping Plaza Parking, 2836 N. Clark.  Metered parking is available on Broadway for $1.25 an hour for two hours–but you will have to leave at intermission in order to add the additional time needed to see the show.

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