By TREENA MIELKE
They came. They ate. They saw, they laughed and they visited.
And then, in temperatures that hovered around -40 degrees C, they got in their vehicles and drove home.
And so ended another delightful evening at the Liberty Hall, where the Springdale Players Theatre Group performed their 17th annual dinner theatre.
As always, the event was a huge success. Throughout the evening the old hall (built in 1921) resounded with the pleasant hum of voices, broken more than occasionally with peals of laughter. Background music provided by Deb Stark on the piano added a special touch as the crowd ate their fill of home cooked fare, including roast beef, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, salads, vegetables topped off with delectable desserts.
Finally, tables were put away and chairs pushed forward as the audience settled back to watch this year’s light and delightful comedy The Seniors of the Sahara, directed by Dianne Carr. The two-act comedy begins with a scene taking place in an unidentified far off land where two foreigners, Refik, (Merv Steeves) and Salas (Clinton Steeves) are arguing over the serious loss of a most valuable trinket that apparently has been sold to a Jewish lady living in Margate, N.J.
The scene switches to a seniors’ condominium in Margate where returning traveller, Sylvia Goldberg (Elaine Hawkins) is being given a surprise party by her friends, Fannie Green (Carol Kreutz), Mable Millstein, (Karen Steeves) and Thelma Wachter (Sheryl Boyes).
The story takes an unexpected twist when Savalas knocks on Sylvia’s door impersonating a police officer and eventually coaxes the retired school teacher to let him in. Once entry is gained, he threatens her with a knife so as to claim possession of the coveted trinket. However, she proves even retired school teachers can be cunning and crafty if necessary and she manages to keep the trinket, and, in the process, save her own life. Sadly, she is convinced she has actually killed the intruder and is subject to some remorse over her unprecedented act of violence.
However, when a genie appears out of the coveted trinket, the story takes another unexpected twist.
Will Sylvia Goldberg find true love with a million-year-old genie? Did she really kill Savalas, the young intruder? And will Fannie actually allow Herman (Dwight Ungstad) the opportunity to have more than just a dance with her at the seniors’ social, operated by the master of ceremonies, played by Fran Osokin?
These questions and more remained unanswered until act 2 when the crowd, who settled back in their seats after a short intermission, discovered the play, as suspenseful as it seemed at times, did, indeed have a happy ending.
The actors who helped spin out the tale of the seniors of the Sahara for the audience to enjoy seemed to bring the stage to life with their well-rehearsed lines and carefully honed New Jersey accents.
But Shery Boyes, who played the role of Thelma Wachter and also worked at the ticket desk and no doubt performed several other behind the scene functions, said no one on stage has a full-time career as an actor.
“It’s not like a bunch of actors live here. We are just ordinary people, farmers, teachers, whatever.”
“First and foremost, the actors must have a lot of fun doing the play.”
Boyes said people from other communities repeatedly comment that the Springdale Players Theatre Group is made up of a talented group. But she said anyone who is willing to commit the time and energy could host such an event.
“It’s not for snowbirds. We practise for about four months twice a week.”
Boyes added that the Springdale Springdale Players help keep community alive Ladies’ Club, who present the meal, play a major role in the success of the dinner theatre.
While the menu is simple, the work schedule is not. The food preparation, serving and cleanup involve more than 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. 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.
And last, but certainly not least, Boyes noted the assistants, a group of young people who greet guests, hang coats, clear tables and help out whenever and wherever they can.
Boyes said in the 17-year history of the dinner theatre, organizers have discovered that if there is a problem someone is always willing to help solve it. And if each person or group does their job to the best of their ability, it usually turns out well.
“We try to only change those things that will improve the quality of our event and not mess with the things that are working well.”
It seems that learning from the past, working together and giving everyone the role best suited to their talents and time constraints has worked out amazingly well.
“The end result is that our community has come together to solve the two problems we started out with — low participation and low finances,” Boyes said.
Those problems have been solved.
“Neighbors 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 prove that the Springdale District centered by Liberty Hall is alive and well.”