If You Go
What: SALT Academy presents British farce "Murder at Haversham Manor" as its annual fundraising event
When: 6-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 17, and 18
Where: SALT Academy workshop and theater, 333 N. Main Ave., Gresham
Tickets: $50; visit saltacademy.com/events or call 503-919-7258
While East Multnomah County's cultural landscape grows richer all the time, opportunities to take in a British farce-style theater production by youthful-yet-experienced actors, while enjoying a fine dinner, remain few and far between.
Gresham's SALT Academy & Performing Arts Co. is doing its part to fill that gap by presenting two dinner theater performances of "Murder at Haversham Manor" at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 17-18 at the SALT workshop, 333 N. Main Ave., Gresham. Tickets are $50 for the performance and dinner, which is catered by SALT's Main Avenue neighbor, Nicholas Restaurant.
Mimi Stewart, the nonprofit academy's artistic director, says the event, which serves as SALT Academy's fundraiser for student scholarships, should be a hilarious and fulfilling night for all involved.
"I think anyone who comes is gonna get not only a great meal but leave having enjoyed themselves and laughed a lot," she says. "It's so much fun and so funny."
Stewart, who directs a cast of 37, including current and former SALT's Advanced Theater students, became aware of "Murder at Haversham Manor" in 2019.
"The appeal for me is there's a lot of physical comedy," she says. "It's basically a story of a play where everything that can go wrong does go wrong, and the characters are trying to remain — as the British always do — stoic and steady while the world collapses all around them, and you, in a very physical and comedic way."
Stewart chose the production to share the skewed beauty of full-tilt theatrical British satire with her Advanced Theater students as well as audience members.
"These are 18 year olds and above who have been with us (awhile). I like to say college aged," she says. "A couple are in high school and the rest all college age. It's a mix of current and former students, all in Advanced Theater.
"This is new for them," she adds. "It's not like an American comedy."
While many folks are familiar with the Monty Python troupe's farcical sketch and cinematic comedy through movies like "Life of Brian" and "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," Stewart feels "Murder at Haversham" takes British farce to another level.
"Their movies are ridiculous, of course, and hilarious, but this is a step up from that," she says. "Monty Python, even though it's hilarious, none of it is credible. That type of comedy, the storyline is secondary instead of first. This has an actual storyline."
Given the play's title, Stewart isn't revealing too much when she shares that "somebody dies."
"The difference between British and American theater is in America, we always want a happy ending. But in Britain, the fair maiden often dies at the end," she says. "This play draws you in very quickly — almost instantaneously with the storyline and characters."
Rather than repeat SALT's usual silent-auction fundraiser, the dinner theater concept allows patrons to donate $50 to further students' performing arts goals while they are getting well fed and entertained.
"The dinner part's all that's involved in the fundraising," Stewart explains. "You just pay that, and dinner plus the show is the event you get to enjoy.
"We really wanted to do that for the community," she adds, "have them come in and enjoy a really nice evening."
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