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30th annual dinner theatre production set to hit the stage of Liberty Hall

Springdale Player’s Club to stage comedic production of ‘Francine’s Will’
(File photo)

The stage and kitchen of Liberty Hall in Bluffton are set to come alive this February for their 30th annual dinner theatre.

This year’s performance will be Francine’s Will by Mary Dattilo.

The plot of the play is based on the death of Francine Faraday. After the wealthy woman passes away and leaves her entire estate to her longtime companion H.P. Manly the loyal members of Francine’s staff are delighted. However, her money-hungry relatives are furious.

Though the will is ironclad, the relatives find they can inherit Francine’s fortune if H.P. dies of “natural” causes. As the family plots H.P.’s demise, the staff schemes to save him, resulting in counter-plots and mixed-up romances aplenty.

This year’s performance will see Cal Kitchen as Arthur Jarvis, Lia Cionco-Pop as Roxanne Howard, Alannah Bancroft as Cecily Monroe, Karen Steeves as Lydia Lawson, Ethan Rode as Stanley Lawson, Brit Rondeel as Brenda Lawson, Jim Mulek as Chester Gregson, Cory Nickoleff as Brad Somers and Zoe Gandner as Tiffany Trevor.

Director Joey Jensen explained the group read Francine’s Will a number of years ago but struggled with finding enough men to play the male parts.

“In last years’ play Par for the Corpse, we had a male part played by the amazing Alannah Bancroft,” said Jensen. “There were people who never realized that she was a girl until after the curtain when she took off her wig.

“I thought maybe we could try again with this year’s play as I remembered it being quite funny. We did struggle getting the male parts filled but we found an amazing cast and we are having so much fun putting it together.”

Jensen added the history of the annual Liberty Hall dinner theatre stems back to 1993. In the years preceding, Liberty Hall was faltering. To that end, the hall board decided to try putting on a dinner theatre.

“Most of us laughed and said ‘We’re not the Mayfield you know.’” she said. “The board announced that auditions would be held. They waited but no one came. Since there were about the same number of hall board members as characters in the script they had, each member got a part – whether they wanted it or were suited to it or not.”

The hall saw a silver stack tarp used as the backdrop for the very first play called, The Romancers, which was first performed around Valentine’s Day 1994. The ticket prices were kept very low so that somebody might come.

“We did sell out, with a few still waiting so we did it again the next weekend and away we went,” said Jensen. “Since that time we have been met with a resounding success — some years selling out almost a thousand tickets in about an hour.”

The annual theatrical extravaganza is made possible through collaboration from four main groups. The Springdale Players Club are responsible for the play and the Springdale Ladies’ Club organizes and prepares the meal with help from other community volunteers. The Liberty Hall Board do set up, clean up and run the bar. The fourth group sees local youth volunteering as ‘Coat Check Kids.’

“Over the years we have had ‘assistants’ hang coats, clear tables and provide whatever other labour we needed,” said Jensen jokingly.

“We’ve also had the 4-H club help us out as well. Many of the youngsters have gone on to become actors, stage crew and kitchen helpers. We really do appreciate their help and hope they continue to be involved in our community activities,” she added. “The plays we choose are always clean, fun comedies. It is a totally local volunteer production — from the cooks, actors and everyone else that donate time and materials.”

Jensen said she is proud of how the dinner theatre brings together the community. The show takes around 30 volunteers a night to put the production together. The group attracted a loyal following 30 years ago and with shows selling out so quickly they kept adding more shows every year until they got up to eight performances.

“With the success of the theatre and having money in the bank we decided to build a new hall,” said Jensen. “It took many more fundraisers, donations and volunteer hours but we finally did it and moved into the existing building in June of 2019. The dinner theatre is now our main fundraiser to sustain our little community hall and I hope it continues well into the future.”

Currently, a number of evenings and matinees are nearing the point of selling out or are entirely sold out. There are a number of tickets left for the opening night, which will take place on Feb. 3.

Ticket availability and purchasing can be viewed by visiting