Help & Frequently Asked Questions
Header picture: “King Lear, Act I, Scene I (Cordelia’s Farewell)” Edwin Austin Abbey (1897-1898)
About Dinner Play
WHAT IS DINNER PLAY?
Dinner Play is an exciting new concept. The concept is simple – sharing the love of wordplay in good company over fine food.
Dinner Play brings the theatre to your dinner party, providing direction on ‘performing’ a classic play in a dinner party setting. Dinner Play provides the direction and production materials, hosts provide the venue, food and guests.
With Dinner Play, guests are transformed into Players; dinner into a Banquet; a group of friends into a Company of Players; dinner conversations into Timeless Tales; dinner attire into Costumes and Props.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Around the Banquet Table, in between dinner courses, the Company of Players ‘perform’ a Play by reading their Characters’ lines from their individually scripted Play Books.
The emphasis is on playing and engaging with each other (not memorising lines). Players do not need to be familiar with the play beforehand or be able to act.
After selecting your chosen Dinner Play, invite your guests and plan your production. The Host Pack provides all the information you need to create a unique event.
Next comes setting the scene and preparing the banquet. You may like to prepare a lavish feast, provide simple fare or invite your guest to contribute by bringing a plate of food to share. The choice is yours. Decoration, costume and prop suggestions are provided.
To ‘perform’ the Dinner Play, just follow the simple guidelines in the Host Pack and Play Books. The Dinner Play is ‘performed’ over the course of the meal, using individually scripted Play Books. The synopsis and character descriptions provided in each Play Book assist in understanding and enjoying the twists and turns of the play.
Upon receipt of a Dinner Play invitation, guests follow the direction of the host. Little preparation is involved, aside from enthusiasm, choice of attire, and contribution to creating a prop and costume box if desired by your host.
Hosting a Dinner Play
WHO HOSTS A DINNER PLAY?
People host their own Dinner Play, using the production material supplied. Each Dinner Play set contains all the information needed to plan and host a Dinner Play event.
ONE OF MY GUESTS NOW CAN’T ATTEND MY DINNER PLAY. CAN WE PLAY WITH LESS PLAYERS?
Each Dinner Play has been carefully devised to ensure that each Player is fully engaged throughout the whole Play. There is no passive audience.
If you have time, it is best to arrange another guest to participate. If this is not possible, you may be able to share the Player’s lines amongst the remaining Players. However, this can be tricky, as each Player already has a number of allocated characters, carefully devised so as to minimise a Player’s characters speaking to each other in the same scene, and to ensure an even distribution of characters, acts and lines amongst Players.
Preparing for a Dinner Play
I HAVE BEEN INVITED TO A DINNER PLAY, DO I NEED TO PREPARE?
No, guests do not need to prepare for a Dinner Play, aside from choosing their attire, or contributing to creating a prop and costume box if desired by your host.
You don’t need to be familiar with the play, or even to have read it at all. There is no reading, practising, rehearsing or memorising required.
I AM NOT FAMILAR WITH THE PLAY. DO I HAVE TO PRACTICE OR READ IT BEFOREHAND?
No, you don’t need to be familiar with the play, or even to have read it at all. There is no reading, practising, rehearsing or memorising required.
I HAVE NEVER ACTED, NOR AM I VERY GOOD AT REMEMBERING LINES. CAN I STILL BE INVOLVED?
Dinner Play isn’t about acting or performing, or memorising any lines. In fact, people don’t even have to be familiar with the play.
The emphasis is on playing and engaging with each other (not memorising lines or acting).
I COULDN’T UNDERSTAND SHAKESPEARE IN SCHOOL, I DON’T THINK I WOULD NOW, DOES IT MATTER?
Many of us found Shakespeare very old and dusty at school, which is very sad as we missed out on enjoying some extremely clever wordplay. Shakespearean plays are extremely witty and clever, but don’t be put off if you don’t understand some of it. Just follow the words – you will find some very easy to understand, and some not so easy. One of the best parts of a Dinner Play occurs when someone is reading their lines and goes ‘aha, so that is what he meant!’
The synopsis and character descriptions provided in each Play Book assist in understanding and enjoying the twists and turns of the play.
HOW ARE THE CHARACTERS ALLOCATED? DO I GET TO CHOOSE?
Each Player has a number of specifically allocated characters, to enable maximum participation by all Players. The characters in the Play have been carefully selected for each Player, so that the number of acts, scenes and speeches are fairly evenly distributed. The emphasis of Dinner Play is on playing and engaging, so effort has been made to ensure this for all Players.
Hosts, in their role of producer, allocate the Players amongst their guests. Guests may be matched to a Player (with their specific characters), guests may choose for themselves, or Players can be allocated at random.
Some Dinner Plays even have the main characters shared amongst all players throughout a Play – so that everyone gets a chance to play special characters.
HOW WILL I KNOW WHEN IT IS MY TURN TO SPEAK?
All Players’ Character lines are highlighted in their individual Play Books. Players also share reading aloud all preludes and stage cues, so that Players are aware that their character will be speaking.
I HAVE BEEN INVITED TO A DINNER PLAY, BUT I AM NOT VERY GOOD AT READING OUT LOUD. I REALLY WANT TO GO, BUT I AM AFRAID OF BEING EMBARRASSED. WHAT CAN I DO?
Depending on the Dinner Play, some Players characters have shorter speeches than other characters. You can ask your host that you be allocated such a player, if you are really uncertain. Remember that Dinner Play isn’t about acting or performing, just sharing the enjoyment of clever wordplay with friends. Be guided by the punctuation, and you will find your own rhythm. Be at ease, Dinner Play is not a performance, but a shared joy of wordplay. All Players follow the Play through their scripts, so are reading along with you. We have watched less confident readers really embrace and enjoy Dinner Play.
I FIND SOME OF SHAKESPEARE’S WORDS VERY HARD TO PRONOUNCE. DOES THIS MEANS I CAN’T BE A PLAYER?
In truth, so do I! I am yet to meet a Dinner Player (outside of an actor) who doesn’t. Tripping over seemingly unpronounceable words is part of the fun. Players can help each other (always kindly). You can also have a little fun – and change an unpronounceable word to a common word of today, thereby devising your own wordplay.
I AM EXPERIENCING PROBLEMS DOWNLOADING OR OPENING A DINNER PLAY, WHAT TO DO I DO?
There may be several reasons why you are experiencing a problem, most likely being outside influences – eg internet connection, browsers, cookies, ISP’s. If, after checking all potential problems your end, as the Dinner Play office operates general office hours, it is best to contact Dinner Play by sending a SUPPORT REQUEST email, Facebook messenger or mobile/cell text message.
Please resist the temptation to use real swords, knives, and other sharp instruments as props. Plastic or wooden props, though less real, draw less blood!
Dinner Play delights in using Shakespearean and other like material. Whilst many words and phrases in common usage today are attributed to Shakespeare, there are many cultural differences between the two societies. Shakespeare’s plays can contain violence, death, suicide and all manner of unpleasantness, not to mention a swathe of gender differences. If you are in a fragile state, please choose your Dinner Play with that in mind.