Dinner theater at Veterans Memorial involves audience - Brownsville Herald: Education

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Dinner theater at Veterans Memorial involves audience

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Posted: Sunday, October 28, 2018 10:00 pm

The theater department at Veterans Memorial Early College High School presented a murder mystery with several twists over the weekend, engaging the audience in a way most theatrical productions don’t.

The audience in the dinner theater production of David J. LeMaster’s “Did Someone Say Murder” became detectives and active participants in the case.

The production played out in the Veterans Memorial cafeteria, which had been turned into a posh, ritzy restaurant for the show. The guests were warned in a welcoming note from Juliana Topete, the Veterans Memorial theater director, on behalf of the Veterans Theatre Actor Troupe that “Someone Will Be Killed.”

The troupe numbers 16 cast actors, approximately 20 dinner guests, a crew of waiters and waitresses and a stage crew. The wait staff changed for each of the three performances and consisted of students from Topete’s beginning and intermediate theater classes.

Topete is in her sixth year as a theater director but her first year at Veterans. She said she chose “Did Someone Say Murder” as this year’s theater production because it offered the chance for the actors and cast to interact with the audience. She hopes to establish a dinner theater tradition. This is its first year.

“ I wanted to expose them to a different type of theater, in which they have to interact with the audience, instead of people just coming to watch a show on stage,” she said.

The theater students were skeptical at first.

Oscar Garcia, who plays Inspector Rathbone, said the audience participation makes the show unusual. Prior to dress rehearsal on Thursday he was looking forward to “having a proper audience for the first time” the following night.

The show had performances on Friday and Saturday nights. A third performance was added on Sunday afternoon when the first two sold out.

Lauren Cuevas, who plays the restaurant hostess, said the concept for the show was something new at first.

“ It’s like nothing we’ve ever done before. It’s very lively,” she said.

Cuevas, a senior, has been in theater all four years. She said the interactive and dinner theater aspects of the play were intimidating at first. But on Thursday she couldn’t wait for the first performance.

“ We learned many different ways to play to the audience,” she said. “It’s giving your co-actor something to play to.”

Garcia said the show differs from other productions he’s been involved in at the Camille Playhouse. He characterized the play as “a free-wheeling smorgasbord that somehow comes together,” whereas other shows are more scripted.

In her welcoming note, Topete informs the audience that “several of you might be asked to stand up and deliver a clue as the show progresses. Please help us out, we need audience interaction,” she says.

glong@brownsvilleherald.com

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