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Gray Areas: ‘Ink’ mixes art and food at Soap Gallery

Assorted ramblings from the world of entertainment:

• Art and food will be linked by “Ink” in the first event at Youngstown’s Soap Gallery since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the state to issue stay-at-home orders.

“Ink” on June 27 is a collaboration between Pittsburgh tattoo artist Aaron Jack and chef Rasul Welch, a Youngstown native now based in Cleveland. Some of Jack’s work will be displayed inside the gallery, and Jack will create a piece of art on the loading dock next to the gallery on Champion Street from 2 to 6 p.m.

Welch will assemble meal kits for a dinner featuring an edible ink sauce that can be picked up at the gallery that afternoon. Those who purchase the meal kits also will receive a private Zoom link, and later that evening Welch will demonstrate how to prepare a dinner with the ingredients.

“Ras and I have been friends for 15 years,” Soap co-owner Stephen Poullas said. “We used to do pop-up events at the Lemon Grove back in the day. He’d cook, and I’d make rice or something small.”

The live art demonstration will be open to the public. The indoor display will be open only to those who purchase meal kits, and kits are sold with scheduled pick-up times to keep attendance at a level that allows social distancing.

Poullas said they still are deciding how to move forward. They expect to have an exhibition in early July, but they haven’t decided yet whether it will be a virtual exhibition or a traditional gallery show.

“We’re not sure,” he said. “It’s whatever the state of Ohio will let us do.”

Meal kits are $40 per person or $120 for four people, and can be ordered at Welch’s website, www.theroninchef.com. A portion of the proceeds will go to the CommonWealth Kitchen Incubator.

• Like many people, Natalia Lepore Hagan found herself unemployed by the shutdowns caused by the coronavirus.

While most of the economy now is reopening, there still is no clear path for when an actor and dancer can expect to return to the theater.

The Youngstown native, who toured nationally in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Love Never Dies” and came home last year to play one of the leads in the Easy Street Productions / Youngstown Symphony Orchestra collaboration on “Guys & Dolls,” doesn’t know when she’ll have the chance to start auditioning again.

She also doesn’t expect the audition process in New York to be the same when it returns.

“I’m usually in a room with 300 other girls packed together and jumping all over each other to get in a smaller room and dance with 20 or 30 others,” Hagan said. “I’m not sure how we’ll try to go forward in our industry. Maybe it will be online more, sending a dance combination virtually and you have to send back a video doing that combination.”

She has been taking dance lessons and teaching dance online, but Hagan said her most satisfying creative outlet during the shutdown has been the cooking videos she started posting on Instagram, in which she draws on the food traditions of her Mahoning Valley roots.

“I started out on Easter with my great-grandmother’s homemade sauce and meatball recipe,” Hagan said, and Italian breaded chicken, potato salad and sausage and peppers also have been on the menu. “I realized how fun it is to cook, and at the same time I’m performing and joking around and having a blast. It’s really been a blessing for me.”

Her cooking videos can be seen on Instagram — @natalialeporehagan.

Despite that outlet, Hagan is looking forward to performing for live audiences again soon, and she suspects audiences are hungering for the theatrical experience.

“I think people are going to be ecstatic to watch live performances again,” she said. “Maybe there’s a bright side, by taking something away maybe it will come back stronger in the end.”

Andy Gray is the editor of Ticket. Write to him at agray@tribtoday.com.

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