13 01 HamLITFayetteville is a unique place, so when Up & Coming Weekly Publisher Bill Bowman decided to resurrect the Fayetteville Dinner Theatre after a more than 35-year hiatus, he knew it would have to be something special.  And is it ever. Each event includes much more than dinner and a show. From music to prizes, games, a meet-and-greet reception and much more, the FDT offers an experience like none other in the area — and all for the benefit of area theatergoers and Cumberland County education. FDT supports the Kidsville News Literacy and Education Foundation, a 501c3 that provides reading and educational resources to local children and teachers. The second show of the 2019-2020 season, “HamLIT,” runs Friday, Sept. 27 and Saturday, Sept. 28.
“Our local residents shouldn’t have to drive to Greensboro or Raleigh for good dinner theater entertainment,” said Bowman. “That’s why we’ve gone out of our way to make this a very special and unique experience people will want to
come back to  time and time again.”
To accomplish this, Bowman has partnered up with some of the community’s most prestigious businesses and organizations to bring this production to fruition. Sponsored by Worldwide Wellness LLC and Up & Coming Weekly and hosted by Gates Four Country Club,  “HamLIT”  is performed by local theater troupe Sweet Tea Shakespeare.
13 02 DSC 8534 “HamLIT” is Shakespeare with a twist and brings great theater, hijinks, games and more to theater audiences. It’s definitely Shakespeare but with a few hearty toasts, period games, improv, lively music and lots and lots of humor thrown in for good measure. Bowman described it as “bold and irreverent with notes of tragedy balanced only by uproarious hilarity for adult audiences.”
“Expect a little craziness and a lot of fun,” said Nathan Pearce, one of the show’s three directors. “We take it down to the bare bones of the plot and fill it with improv and games. … We really like to have audience interaction. We want the audience to feel like they are part of the story, that they aren’t just watching it. We want them to join in the fun. We want them to sing along — we will do songs everyone knows. It is like a big party.”
Taj Allen is also on board as codirector and Hamlet, with codirector Traycie Zapata also playing the part of Gertrude. Pearce fills several roles, including codirector, Claudius and The Ghost. Brandon Bryan is Polonius, Nelson Soliva plays Horatio as well as a musician, and Jacqueline Nunweiler plays Laertes as her first role in an STS production. Mary Gainer Mariyampillai plays Ophelia for her STS debut, and Dean Dibling has the role of musician.
Ed Wiens, owner of Worldwide Wellness LLC,  is proud to support the endeavor. “Friends and acquaintances throughout history have found common ground in theater entertainment,” said 13 03Wiens. “Though times and technology have certainly changed, the gathering of community members around the ‘watering hole’ of good theatrical entertainment is an enduring part of the human experience. (My wife) Rebekah and I are pleased to enhance that experience for our fellow Fayettevillians. … Though our business is global, we live in Fayetteville and want to do all we can to enrich the lives of people in our community.”
The Fayetteville Dinner Theatre experience includes a preshow reception with hors d’oeuvres; a full-service cash bar and wine tasting, a duel entrée dinner with two sides, a salad and rolls; and coffee, tea and specialty desserts at intermission.
The 2019-2020 season opened May 31 with “’M’ is for Mullet, ” a whodunit written and directed by Elaine Alexander and featuring  The Hot Mess players with special guest KasCie Page.
“It went quite well,” Gates Four general manager Kevin Lavertu said of the first production of the year. “It was very interactive. Members and guests took part in it, and there was a tremendous amount of positive feedback, which is why we are excited to continue hosting the Fayetteville Dinner Theatre.”
Gates Four Golf and Country Club
13 04 HamlitBuilt in 1968 and owned by the same family since 1974, Gates Four is a residential and golfing community beautifully located between Hope Mills and Fayetteville. It hosts a challenging 18-hole championship golf course that includes both new bent-grass greens and renovated bunkers. It features a 30,000-square-foot clubhouse, a first-class restaurant, two USTA tennis courts, an outdoor pavilion, a 10-acre park with walking and fitness trails and an Olympic-sized pool. 
“As we continue to grow, we are always looking for opportunities to provide high-quality events and entertainment options to residents, members and their guests,” said Lavertu. “We are glad to be a part of the Fayetteville Dinner Theatre and look forward to our partnership in 2020 and beyond.”
Sweet Tea Shakespeare Company
Inspired by Shakespeare and the early modern spirit, Sweet Tea Shakespeare serves up accessible, imaginative and magical theater along with music, familiarity and fellowship. Unlike other local theaters, STS does not have a permanent venue or building to perform in — and they kind of like it that way.
“Half of our season takes place outdoors,” said STS general manager Jennifer Pommerenke. “We also try to make our shows more of a party. … We play live music before every show. It’s basically like a backyard barbecue where a play breaks out. We try to really connect with our audiences and bring them into the show, make them a ‘character’ almost.” 
Dinner parties lean toward friends and family coming together to have a good time, a fun time, a memorable time, making STS a perfect pairing for the FDT. “You have the music in the background, the food and beverages, and you simply enjoy being in the same place together,” said Pommerenke. “I believe our shows create that atmosphere. Our shows are beautiful and fun to watch. We try incredibly hard to make these beautiful classic stories authentic and relevant and delightful.”
“With an awesome show, talented actors, a reception, a great dinner, door prizes and entertainment — all culminating with a post-show meet-and-greet — we strive to provide a very unique dinner theatre experience” said Bowman. “It’s all about providing local theater audiences what they pay for — awesome entertainment at a great value.”
Tickets range from $75/$85 per person with special discounts for Seniors 65+ and active-duty military. Group discounts are also available. To learn more about the Fayetteville Dinner Theatre, make reservations or check show dates and times visit www.fayettevilledinnertheatre.com, all social media formats or call 910-391-3859.
“HamIT” offers games, songs, great theater and more.
Photo Credit: Ben Walton

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