The concept of dinner theater is a wee bit troublesome to me. Every well-bred Southerner knows that the rules of Vanderbilt and Post are at their most strict when it comes to table manners. Etiquette dictates that attention should be divided equally among using the right utensils, not dribbling all over you and others and engaging in sparkling conversation—or at least listening politely to sparkling conversation and nodding in agreement every now and then.
Likewise, theater is a craft that actors toil over and hopefully master to put on a live performance. Regardless of whether or not a particular performance runs to one’s taste, one can usually agree that time and effort go into putting on any live show and one should politely give their full attention to a performance unless one has mastered the art of sleeping with their eyes open (I had a roommate in college who did that and it totally freaked me out, but I do so hope to master that skill one day).
In a day and age that requires multitasking with phones and texts and kids and driving and walking in a straight line, is it even within the realm of possibility that we could give our full attention to anything? Probably not. Alas, us Southern Belles can and will adapt.
I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I was in a dinner theater production once. Of course, it wasn’t anything professional—far from it as a matter of fact. D.C. Virgo Junior High School. 1987. School gym. Togas. Spaghetti. Horror.
Why did I sign up for the drama elective? Because the only other alternatives were Home Economics and Mechanics Shop and I was waaaaay too accident prone to safely make it through either one of those.
The play was a comedy, but it probably would have been laughable even if it had been a drama. It had something to do with Rome and Ceasar and we had to wear togas. The menu for our unwitting victims/audience was spaghetti and before you go thinking that spaghetti isn’t so bad, let me clarify further and tell you that it was school cafeteria spaghetti. Get the picture?
Since the drama and trauma of that fateful night in the mid 1980’s, I have attended exactly three dinner theater shows. The first two shows were Dolly Parton’s Dixieland Stampede in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The inaugural visit was way back in the day when DS was the new thing to do. Right after we got married, Scott and I went with some friends of ours. It was okay. I’m not really a fan of horses and it didn’t really crank my tractor, but we had a nice enough time.
About fifteen years later, I went back with my mom and my two Baby Belles. Seeing the show through the eyes of my daughters made the experience a thousand times better. Baby Belle 1 thought the horses were fantastic and Baby Belle 2 thought that the pig race was the coolest thing ever. My mother’s dismay over having to eat her entire meal with her fingers was particularly enjoyable for me.
There’s just one little thing about the Dixie Stampede that I never really got over. I’m sure you’ll think it’s silly...well...okay...here it is: They put me in the North. When the audience files into the dining area/arena, the ushers or cattle handlers or whatever you want to call them split you into two groups. There is a “Yankee” side and a “South” side and you are obligated to cheer for whichever side you are shuttled to.
I was willing to believe that the first time was a fluke, but I took precautions on the second visit and I still got stuck in the North. There is a reason that the Confederate War is called “The Recent Unpleasantness.” Let’s just leave it by saying that I was a surly Yankee. Twice.
My most recent dinner show experience was just this past weekend at Medieval Times. Knights race around on horses jousting and sword fighting all while you sit and gnaw on a rotisserie chicken and cheer on the knight you are assigned to cheer for. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure about taking the Baby Belles to the show because it was obviously more violent than the pig races and possum trots of the Dixie Stampede, but it was part of Baby Belle 1’s birthday weekend wish (some Belles have a birthday while others have festivals), so I bit the bullet and got the tickets.
Of course the show started off with a loud thunder, lightning and smoke display and I looked in dismay at my two girls as they covered their ears in a vain attempt to quiet the noise. When the sword fighting and stabbing and maiming broke out, I looked on with a different and seriously heightened level of dismay as my precious princesses were practically uncontainable in their delight. Baby Belle 1 hollered, “KILL ‘EM! KILL ‘EM! WOOHOO!!!” While Baby Belle 2 waived her little flag as hard as she could and yelled encouragement in toddler-speak.
There's nothing left to say but: Thank you! I’ll be here all week! Try the veal.