When it comes to fundraising, there are a lot of different methods employed to get attention and raise critical dollars for doing good deeds. The Macon County Community Foundation, however, stands out from a crowded field with its annual mystery dinner theater.
Because in this community, the nonprofit doesn’t just hire an acting group to come into town and put on the entertainment — here, and in the recent past in Swain County under the guidance of that community foundation, members of the Macon County group’s board put their dignities on the line and participate as actual actors.
This puts Franklin Mayor Joe Collins in the role, this year, of Jack in “The Grimm Tales of Mother Goose.” Jim Breedlove, a school board member, stars as the Big Bad Wolf. Louise Henry appears as Mother Goose, Michele Hubbs as Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, Theresa Ramsey as the witch and Sue LeLievre is Jill.
LeLievre, the Franklin-based regional associate for the N.C. Community Foundation, said the dinner theater play, “The Grimm Tales of Mother Goose,” came with the warning “not for children.”
“It may be a little suggestive,” she said, “but it really is funny.”
The production pokes fun at the uptight “politically correct” atmosphere of the 1990s while standing the traditional nursery rhymes on their heads. Among the twists, Mother Goose is worn to a frazzle trying to fend off the “PC Police” and prevent her characters from ending up in the tabloids. The Old Woman in a Shoe appears as the original “gimme girl,” and the audience learns what Snow White was really doing with those seven little dwarfs.
“When we started these dinner theaters, people were nervous about being in them,” LeLievre said, adding that now, however, the various community members more-or-less eagerly seek out roles.
Breedlove, for instance, a particularly mild-mannered man, inevitably goes for “cad” characters.
“And it’s not a bit like him,” LeLievre said. “But, he really gets into the part.”
Breedlove said he enjoys participating in the plays, and if the audience has fun the actors have fun, too.
“We get to step outside our normal routines and act silly for a while,” Breedlove said.
Members of the cast throughout the performance enjoy adlibing lines. Which is terrifically funny, LeLievre said, except when you are waiting on a cue to start your part in the play.
“You really never know what’s going to happen,” she said.
The audience participates by solving a mystery included in the mystery theater performance. Macon County Planner Derek Roland is starring as the “detective” in charge of that part of the entertainment. He denied being nervous, saying it’s simply performing in front of the community where he grew up and that already knows him well.
“They already understand I’m an idiot anyway, so it’s not like I’ll be a bigger idiot,” Roland said. “It sounded like fun.”
Want to Go?
What: Mystery Dinner Theater
Where: Franklin, Fat Buddies BBQ
When: 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23; Friday, Feb. 24; and Saturday, Feb. 25
Cost: $35 per person; includes dinner