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Ojai Art Center Theater offers free play online: 'The Dinner'

web 11 20 Cecil Sutton
Photo submitted
Cecil  Sutton stars in the play.

Bill Spellman, Special to the Ojai Valley News
“The Dinner” is a play available online for free over Thanksgiving from Nov. 21 through 29. This show was first submitted in 2005 for inclusion in an Ojai Art Center Theater One Act Festival. It almost wasn’t selected. Most plays submitted are written by established playwrights with a history of successful productions. This play is by Christine Haider-Winnett, then a high school student, and had never been produced. 
The selection group loved the play, but no one wanted to direct it. The action was limited to a couple sitting at a table eating dinner. Although their discussion sounded interesting, the group agreed a play typically works better when the characters move around a bit. Further, most of our experienced directors had already committed to other projects, so it appeared the play wouldn’t make the cut. 
I eventually agreed to direct, if I could choose the actors I wanted. They were Cecil Sutton, longtime Ventura County Community Theater leading man and an incredibly versatile actor, and Lynn Van Emmerik, who performed for the previous 20 years with Covenant Players, a professional repertory theater group. Both were also experienced directors, while I had never directed a play before.
Fortunately, both actors were available and interested in the project. We met and established a rehearsal schedule, whereupon I announced I was leaving town so they needed to direct themselves. I left town. They directed themselves. The play clearly became the highlight of the festival and I humbly took credit for the brilliant direction. During the run of the festival, Peter Crane, then a film student at Brooks Institute, suggested this would be an interesting project for him and his crew. 
“The Dinner” was performed one last time, not for a live audience but for the camera. This is the performance Ojai Art Center Theater presents now. We hope you enjoy it. 
To view “The Dinner,” for 10 days only, from Nov. 20 to 30, visit https://ojaiact.org/thedinner.

 

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