CCP Stage Play vs Dinner Theatre – which is more desirable?


Shawne Cryderman

Community Circle Players (CCP) was founded in SaddleBrooke after ten successful years of stage play productions by Susan and Steve Shear’s PrimeTime Players. CCP’s co-founders Susan Sterling and Shawne Cryderman stepped out on the proverbial theatrical limb in 2017 and tested the waters of the SaddleBrooke audience by staging a dinner theatre. The huge risk paid off. Because our first show Eat, Drink and be Deadly! was wildly successful; in 2018 CCP produced another dinner theatre mystery The Mafioso Murders, which played to sold out audiences for seven nights. But, should we do a third dinner theatre, or a fourth, or a fifth?

Dinner theatre or a stage play? That is the question!

The dinner theatre concept brought the opportunity to use two different venues, Vistas and MV Ballroom, therefore sharing the revenue with both HOAs, as well as giving the actors a chance to perform in two different arenas. Response and support from SaddleBrooke One and SaddleBrooke TWO management, staff and governing boards has been magnificent. Both venues do their best to accommodate our rehearsal schedules and production requests, no small task when using a multi-purpose venue such as the SaddleBrooke One Vistas dining room, dance floor and Agave Lounge and the SaddleBrooke TWO entire ballroom and Saguaro or Sonoran rooms. Flexibility is constantly required.

Dinner theatre productions include many more outside concerns, starting with food, timing both the bar and food service, continual motion of the servers and audience members eating, passing condiments, clinking their glasses and silverware, etc. While stage plays have less outside interference and vast array of scripts to choose from, dinner theatre scripts must allow time for the serving, consumption and clearing of each part of the meal.

Normally a stage play is performed on an elevated platform with lights and audience focused in one major direction. A dinner theatre, with much more audience interaction, takes place on floor level with many different directions for actors to enter and exit and possibly move among the seated diners. Lighting is particularly important in a dinner theatre.

Audiences react differently when attending a production where they are seated in staggered seats in rows one behind the other vs. being at a table where they will be drinking and eating an entire meal! Dinner theatre scripts encourage more audience participation than a typical comedy or drama stage play, where audiences might simply applaud or occasionally cheer.

The audition process, subsequent rehearsals, tech week and final production flow the same for either stage plays or dinner theatre with each having their own specific demands and requirements. A director must be the one to guide and produce either type of show to a final product much appreciated by the audience.

So, the debate continues for spring 2019. Should CCP produce another dinner theatre or go back to doing a stage play? That is the question!