Theatre Restaurant

Queensland writer Judith Prior has been delighting audiences with her theatre restaurant comedies for decades. She explains how communities can get the most out of them.

Writing comedy, especially theatre restaurant scripts for community theatre, is an art form in itself. The jokes need to be topical, funny, able to include local characters and just a little bit naughty, with lots of double entendre. They must be able to be delivered by a thespian who may have to face their audience members tomorrow morning in the street or as a teacher, bank teller or local Mayor.

As a community theatre production, theatre restaurant has a lot to offer. Not only are these shows simple to stage and costume, one simple set will work admirably. They are also relatively inexpensive to produce and can be a real money spinner for your organization.

The relaxed atmosphere of dinner theatre attracts a wider audience, including a lot of people who may not regularly attend theatre. Many of these will gladly form a large party to attend a dinner theatre show. 

Corporate dinners, end of year break up parties etc. allow us to present our theatre piece to many more possible aspiring thespians.  New members may often be recruited from audience and volunteers from catering and other groups involved in the production, to swell the membership in your theatre group. More members, more audience, more bums on seats. What more could you want?

Musical involvement, either taped or live bands, backing tapes or just one musician, will enhance the production and help to involve the audience, a must for this type of production. APRA licensing for interpolated music is not difficult to obtain; if you set your music early and work with APRA the show will run smoothly.

I am of the firml belief that this type of theatre is not really suited to original music, no matter how good it is - with dinner and a few drinks your audience are possibly going to want to sing along, or at least sit back and listen to music that is familiar to them. Many old hit parade songs may be used with APRA licensing, and also a lot of great music is now available free as Public Domain. 

Offering to share the food or bar take with another organization, e.g. local Lions or Rotary club, golf club or other sporting body, increases your community involvement and ensures a larger audience. This also delegates some of the responsibility of the production to others, who in turn generate more audience from their workmates, friends and families.

If you have small towns close by, theatre restaurant is ideal for touring. Many hotels or clubs will let you have their venues, even sell the tickets in advance for you, for a split of the ticket price. They will then provide the catering and drinks. You can reap the rewards.

The meal content of the show may be as lavish as a three course meal in a licensed premises, or as simple as finger food, fish and chips, or pizza and BYO drinks, even just nibblies, cheese and crackers and BYO drinks in a local hall.

If your group have never staged this type of show, I urge you to consider one for your end of year production. Many theatre groups all over Australia stage at least one of these productions every year. Consistently these shows are the main money spinners for their organizations. With the profits made from such a show, more challenging and prestigious pieces may be financed.

Endorsements from long term users of my many scripts continue to tell me “Your plays are so funny and just so doable. We all had a ball, and so did our audiences.”

See them all at.