The concept of a dinner theatre was born out of desperation when the Liberty Hall went into a serious financial decline that resulted from a prior decline in usage of the hall. The idea was proposed by a couple of board members and was reluctantly accepted by the others. From humble beginnings when the group charged $5 for admission so the community would feel obligated to attend, to this year’s record 30-minute sellout, Liberty Hall continues to experience a phenomenal run.
The success of this venture is due solely to the wonderful cooperation of the whole community. The mission of the board is to ensure that each guest has an enjoyable evening from the time they walk in the door until they walk out again, and even longer as they think back on the evening.
The season begins in the fall when the Springdale Players Theatre Group start practicing a play. First and foremost, the actors must have a lot of fun participating in the play. The play itself must be a light, clean comedy, suited for the Hall, the actors available and is quite often written by Pat Cook. About 20 people are usually involved in the play including actors, production crew and support staff.
Then, the Springdale Ladies’ Club begins to plan the meal. The menu itself is simple: home-cooked fare, some of which is homegrown. It always includes roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, to which are added freshly prepared salads and veggies, topped off with scrumptious desserts made with real whipped cream. While the menu is simple, the work schedule is not. The food preparation, serving and cleanup involve over 40 people, some of whom do their part every show, some part-time and some occasionally. However often they take part, they all play a vital role in the presentation of the dinner.
The originators of the event, the Liberty Hall Board, are responsible for the set-up and cleanup for each presentation, as well as running the bar. About 10 board members organize another 30 people performing cleanup and bartending duties. They also face special challenges such as trying to balance the heat in an old inefficient building, managing a sewer not designed for such high use and purchasing supplies for over a thousand people over the course of a month.
We have a fourth and very important group that makes our production a success. They are our assistants. Each night young people greet guests, hang coats, clear tables and generally help out with whatever needs doing. This usually involves about 32 young people. Often, these junior Springdalers become actors, kitchen helpers and other valuable members of our community.
We have learned a few things over our 14-year history. We have found that if each person or group does their job to the best of their ability, it usually turns out well. If there is a problem someone is always willing to step forward to help. We try to allow people to do the things they like to do and/or are good at, and not to pressure people into situations in which they would be uncomfortable. We try to only change those things that will improve the quality of our event, not mess with the things that are working well.
We are often asked why, since we have such high demand for our tickets, do we not put on more shows. It is fairly simple: our little rural community is tapped out. Over 100 people are involved, many in multiple capacities, all of which are volunteers. The end result is that our community has come together to solve the two problems we started out with – low participation and low finances. Neighbours are meeting and getting to know each other, and our finances are in good shape. We also have many other activities occurring at the Hall, which proves that the Springdale District, centered by Liberty Hall, is alive and well.