Those starved for dinner theatre are in luck — Central Alberta Theatre will be reintroducing meals with plays this fall.
The 44-year-old Red Deer community theatre group will be in partnership with the Quality North Hill Inn, which plans to cater and host the dinner theatres at its north side location.
CAT president Paolo Mancuso said he’s thrilled to be able to offer patrons what many people wanted — a meal with their play.
This option was largely lost in Red Deer after the Black Knight Inn ended its long-running association with CAT in 2011.
While the company briefly tried operating City Centre Stage and continuing to offer dinner theatres there before the venue became too costly for the group to run, the concept was abandoned after CAT began primarily staging plays at the Nickle Studio and Memorial Centre. These didn’t have the capacity for tables or meals.
According to Mancuso, audience attendance without food was spotty. While some plays continued to draw sizable crowds, others did not, and many patrons continued to ask for a meal-theatre combination.
“For a lot of people, CAT was synonymous with dinner theatre. They wanted to see dinner theatres return.”
CAT is, therefore, looking forward to working with the Quality North Hill Inn in offering about three dinner theatre productions a season, he added. As well, some plays without meals could also be staged at a different venues, but this still needs to be approved by the group’s board.
Mancuso is happy things are looking up, financially, for the non-profit, amateur company that had come to a repayment agreement with creditors. CAT is on track with that, he said, and will also be open to making partnerships with other theatre groups in the community for the use of its large costume and set shops.
Alberta Culture Minister Heather Klimchuk had suggested partnerships were the way of the future, since provincial arts grants would be harder to obtain. Mancuso said CAT is already seeing less government money being made available.
While the company temporarily leased City Centre Stage for three productions last season, he was unsure of whether future plays could be staged there because of the facility’s cost. He is planning to talk to officials at Red Deer College, which now owns City Centre Stage, to see if some agreement can be reached.
Meanwhile, CAT’s 2014-15 season lineup is expected to be confirmed in June.