The curtain rises in Clifton tonight when the town debuts its very own dinner theater. Residents from Clifton, Fairfax Station, Centreville, Reston and Arlington will perform the comedic murder mystery, "I'm Getting Murdered in the Morning" by Lee Mueller, for an audience of a hundred each night. Doors for the sold-out performances will open at 7 p.m. and the curtain at Clifton Town Hall will rise at 8. Cast members rehearsing earlier this week said they expected guests to be amused by the play's local references and surprise ending.
The idea for the dinner theater came to Dianne Janczewski while she was on vacation in South Dakota. She and her family attended a dinner theater production and enquired about the troupe's genesis. A woman sitting near her replied simply, "In the winter, they're cold and bored."
Janczewski, a longtime Clifton volunteer, is also one of the driving forces behind the famed Clifton Haunted Trail. It occurred to her that Clifton hosts many events in the warmer months, "but we don't have anything in the winter." An idea was born. She shared her vision for a dinner theater with a few friends and together, they presented it to the Clifton Town Council. The Council's reaction? "Let's do it."
Producer Janczewski, Diane Spina, Lisa Kidd, Phyllis Lovett and Chuck Rusnak have worked diligently to fast-track the play inside of 90 days. "None of us had done this before," she conceded. Still in its infancy, she described the group's inaugural production as "a trial by fire."
Janczewski and her corps of volunteers had much to attend to. They needed to identify a script that was "a good fit," quickly find a director, Charlt Yakovleff; audition a cast and begin rehearsals. In addition to planning a set and props, the daunting task of serving dinner to a hundred guests remained.
Janczewski claims this is when the perennial Clifton sense of community came into play. Many local businesses and the Clifton Betterment Association stepped up to assist. Shirley's Catering agreed to provide dinner at a substantial discount. "A Flower Blooms in Clifton" agreed to provide floral bouquets. T&K Treasures and Clifton Cafe sold tickets. An additional two dozen volunteers will manage stage and lighting, take tickets and serve dinner and tend bar.
"Everyone's been so supportive. Everyone contributed. It's been wonderful," she said.
As cast and crew of 20 ran lines in the Masonic Lodge on Main Street Tuesday night, Janczewski considered what the future might be for the fledgling theater troupe. "We're considering what might be next. I'd like to get more people involved, but I would like it stay on the amateur side, so that it still invites anyone to be part of it."
Be sure to check back on Saturday for a Patch review of "I'm Getting Married in the Morning."