Dinner performance space

Dinner performance space ()

I am finally retired from a life of hard work and can now seek activities that feed my soul. This intentional “slowing down” caused my newly pensive mind to reflect on many extraordinary experiences my family and I enjoyed during our time in USAFE. One of the highlights was the dinner theatre in “K-Town”.

We were stationed at Ramstein Air Base in the early 1990s. One venue we thoroughly enjoyed visiting was a dinner theatre hosted by the local KMC MWR. If my memory is correct, the actors, actresses, and crew were amateurs and were all somehow connected to the US military. Some were active duty, some were dependants, some were civilian employees and all were purely dedicated to their craft. I cannot remember the exact location, but Dänner Kaserne is my guess. Both the meal and the show were prepared on-site. We simply had to show up and pay a small sum for a delightfully big evening of fine dining and entertainment.

We liked the idea of dinner theatre because, well, it’s a perfect date. We enjoyed a good meal followed by a live show. What’s not to like? One evening was especially memorable.

The meal was delectable, as expected, and after dessert, the curtain went up for what we believed would be a first-class performance. The chosen farce, written by Englishman Michael Frayn, was “Noises Off.” It’s a play-within-a-play set in the U.K. (You may recall the movie version which starred Carol Burnett, Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve and some other big names.) We knew the plot with all its comedic twists and turns and we were excited for a pleasant evening of laughter.

The play began with us, the audience, witnessing the technical rehearsal the night before the play (within the play) went public. Of course, props were not ready, everyone was tired, and actors missed their marks and forgot lines. The impression the audience was supposed to glean from the first act was that no one involved in the play was actually ready for opening night. This idea was reinforced during Act Two as the audience saw the play again, this time set from backstage, as if we were part of the stage crew. This was written to show us how props were forgotten or misplaced, why characters became confused, and why marks were missed. In the final act, the audience is transported several weeks into the future where, supposedly, the play has begun a successful run.

The first two acts were perfect and accurately followed the script. However, in Act Three, we noticed a departure from the way the play was scripted. Then, nothing went as planned for the KMC performers.

It started slowly. An actor blew a line or said a line that belonged on another page. A few props were actually misplaced. One actor unintentionally fell down stairs on set which nearly gave new meaning to the familiar thespian phrase, “Break a leg!” The dialogue didn’t match the scene. The play was beginning to not make any sense. We knew something was terribly wrong.

I looked around the room. Everyone was laughing and having a great time. Apparently, no one else in the audience figured out, or cared, that most of Act Three was one massive ad-lib! Somehow, inexplicably, our beloved local amateur actors pulled off a brilliant performance fueled by pure instinct. They mended plot threads left dangling through unscripted mistakes. With linguistic cunning, the actors in real-time created logical closure by creating non-scripted dialogue. They simply improvised and no one in the audience knew. Through sheer will and raw talent, the suspension of reality created by good theatre was complete and closure achieved.

How did they do that? Incredible! The show should have literally fallen apart. But it was a successful evening and one which I will not soon forget, not only because of the professionalism of KMC’s local theatre, but because of the magic we witnessed that night; the actor’s pure improvisational talent resulted in an incredible performance.

I have never enjoyed the local stage as much as that evening so many years ago in “K-Town”. Break a leg!

Today, KMC Onstage has an entire season of shows made up of musicals, plays and children’s performances throughout the year. You can also take workshops to learn about acting, directing, stage combat and much more. For the kids, there are summer camps and after-school programs.

author picture
Kat is a travel and lifestyle writer based in Kaiserslautern, Germany with a special interest in anything outdoorsy or ancient. She has a bachelor’s degree in geography from Penn State University and has been a travel writer for about 10 years. Currently, she is in the depths of dissertation research for an archaeology degree at the University of the Highlands and Islands. 

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