Durham MS Presents Dinner Theatre
Durham Middle School’s recent production of “Death by Dessert,” by Nathan Hartswick, wasn’t just a play. Teacher Vanessa Robichaux turned it in to a multifaceted learning opportunity for theatre students and a fun evening of dinner theatre for a sold-out crowd of 75 guests.
Guided by Robichaux, the students themselves prepared every aspect of the production – performance and meal from concept to complete!
The play was directed by Jordan Lee and Maranda Wienken and starred Cate Miller, Tallon Coxe, Jordan McKee, Zack Coleman, Christian Leon, Lauren Wilbur, Georgina Milne, Dwat Sung, Maddie Glover, Harlem Tanaka-Ronaldo, Lexy Eldridge, Mary Neyens and Katie Schaefer.
Technical theatre artists Khristian Lee, Jamillah Salaam, Marques Thomas, Miranda Mungura, Kasandra Mendoza, Janariah Major and Giselle Rodriquez took care of lighting, stage design, costumes and makeup while chefs Andrea Castellon, Danielle Haney, Jayda Gibson, Angemely Castales, Uniyah Garland and Shardanay Pryor prepared the meal that impressed guests equally as much as the show! Servers Diana Chunn, Caitlin Crawford, Grace Kirby, Kirsten Canfield, Xiomara Hernandez, Taylor Tatum, Tynisia Blakely and Kimberly Miranda attended to guests. (Chunn, Crawford, Kirby, Canfield and Hernandez were also understudies to the actors.)
The cast and crew worked together professionally to find solutions for things such as stage, lighting and costume concerns as well as food portion and preparation.
“I was impressed with the attentiveness of the servers and quality of the overall performance,” LISD Central Zone Assistant Jane Recchia said. “They did a great job! I can’t believe the students did it all themselves.”
When any of these theatre students asked a question of Robichaux during the production, they didn’t get an answer, they got another question.
“It’s important that they learn to think critically, problem solve and be responsible,” Robichaux said. “This is my way of helping them prepare for their futures. I always expect success from my students and they never let me down, but with this project I was blown away. Once again, they exceeded my already high expectations.”
“Death by Dessert” is the story of a feuding family with side-by-side restaurants that serves to die for meals! At the play’s opening the main character Maria, played by Miller is dead. The story then flashes back and as Maria alternates between narration and action to tell the story leading up to her death, which has attendees wondering whodunit within minutes. The comedic mystery had the audience laughing and guessing until the end. During the three-scene play, guests were served salad, spaghetti with meatballs and cupcakes for dessert!
The theatre students would like to thank the National Junior Honor Society and teachers Amanda Gwynn, Patreka Andries, Melissa Simek, Jana Claxton, Katrina Bartel and Mauna Storer for their assistance with the show.
In addition to the things they learned in order to make “Death by Dessert” successful, throughout the year they honed their skills in stage makeup, improv and monologues. They also presented a play during the fall semester. As the school year comes to a close, they’re working on their final projects – authoring an original script and presenting it as a puppet show.