Thespians in Fayetteville don’t have to look too far to find a place to show off their talents. Between the Cape Fear 04-06-11-river-valley-players.jpgRegional Theater, the Gilbert Theatre, the several strong performing- arts departments at the collegiate level and the River Valley Players, to name a few, opportunities abound for both performers and patrons of theater.

Jimmy Skenteris, owner of the Haymont Grill, is teaming up with the River Valley Players to bring Fayetteville a dinner theater experience that will surely impress.

“We have four shows booked up there this year,” said Gerry Cruze, founding member and director of the River Valley Players. “They are offering us the place for our performances and that is really, really good for us. We are glad to have the support.”

The River Valley Players are set to perform at their new theatrical “home,” on April 15 and 16, opening the season with Not The Wizard of Oz.

This particular piece came about when the group was trying to decide what they would perform this season.

“We looked through several scripts and none of them jumped at us, so we all made different suggestions,” said Cruze “Then one of our members, Dale Kalinowski, took them and compiled the whole thing and wrote a script. It is and original script in the process of being copyrighted. It is still kid-friendly, but we try to sort of include some local or current comments where appropriate in this production.”

For $25 the patrons receive a meal of chicken or steak, a tossed salad, potatoes, a vegetable medley, iced tea and dessert and an evening of entertainment. There will be a cash bar available as well.

Funds from this performance will be used to finance the upcoming productions for the group. All funds from the next three performances will be put back into the community through charitable donations. It is this charitable mind set that has driven the River Valley Players from their earliest days.

What started out years ago as a chorus in the radiology department at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center has grown over time into an independent theatrical company whose sole purpose is to raise money for local charities — and have fun in the process.

“It started the year Katrina came through. I was working at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. We had a chorus in the radiology department and we would go around and sing to the kids and adults in the hospital,” said Cruze. “Then Katrina came through and we thought it would be nice to do something as a fundraiser. The folks at Cape Fear Regional Theatre were kind enough to let us use the facility for a reduced rate and we put on a variety show and raised $3,000 for kids that had been displaced by Katrina. That is what planted the seed.”

Three years later, in 2008, the group incorporated into a 501c3 public charity and they’ve been performing around town ever since. One of the biggest challenges that the group faces is that they don’t have a space to call their own, thankfully different events and businesses have provided space along the way, although they hope to have a building to call their own at some point in the future. Until then, they practice at the library and perform wherever they can, storing props and costumes in a rented storage unit. That’s why this dinner theater is such a big deal for them, to have a consistent place to perform and build their audience means a lot to the group.

On June 4 and 5 look for A Salute to Our Military. Proceeds from this production will benefit the Wounded Warrior Fund. August 19 and 20 the group will perform a series of short skits including a past favorite called Revenge of the Red Feathered Ladies. The group will end their season with performances of their Christmas Show on Dec 9 and 10.

Call 858-2237 to purchase tickets and make reservations. The show starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Banquet Room of the Haymont Grill and Steak House. Visit www. therivervalleyplayersnc.org. to find out more.

Photo: The River Valley Players perform at A Dickens Holiday.

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