Community theater potluck builds friendships in St. Paul


The lights were warm, especially compared to the falling temperatures outside, and the only camera was mine, but there was plenty of action during the Friday night reading of “The Subject Was Roses.” The Frank D. Gilroy play, winner of the 1965 Pulitzer Prize, was honored again, as the Lex-Ham Community Theater chose it for their prize winning reading series.

Actors and enthusiasts are welcomed once a month to the St. Paul home of coordinator Urban Landreman for a potluck dinner and night of theater. The reading events began seven years ago with the plays of William Shakespeare, which now alternate with Pulitzer prize-winning plays.

“This is a treasure,” explained semi-retired optometrist Dick Davis, who regularly attends with his wife Mary. The reading nights provide an option for area residents to get engaged with the Lex-Ham Community Theater without the commitment of acting classes or full scale productions.

Next Shakespeare Event: November 13 – “Pericles”

Next Pulitzer Prize Event: December 4 – 2009 Winner “Ruined”

Teresa Anderson said she was a little concerned the first time she and husband Joel attended two years ago, fearing that everyone would be great or serious actors. They’re Shakespeare fans and were hoping for something free, fun and social. What she found was people of all abilities. The Andersons knew some of the people from the Lex-Ham Community Band, but more often they met new people and got to know them over time.

No registration is needed to attend, though people are asked to bring a copy of the play and a dish to share for a 6:30 p.m. casual dinner. A half hour later, everyone takes a seat on Landreman’s comfortable selection of chairs and couches for a quick discussion of the play’s general topic. Friday night we talked about friends and family who have returned from military service.

Landreman assigns the roles that attendees will read, but pays no attention to whether they are male or female. The roles are re-assigned at the beginning of each new scene to give participants a chance to become a variety of characters, some major, some supporting.

“If your character sings, you have to sing,” Landreman explained, “there are few hard and fast rules, but that’s one.”

The other, it turns out, was that if I didn’t have lines in a particular scene I was welcome to refill my spiced cider from the stove or grab another slice of the lemon cake Mitzi Addis brought to share.

The evening was filled with welcoming people, laughter, and an award-winning story. However, I might wait until December to return because when it comes to Shakespeare, I agree with Dick Davis, “I can’t understand half the words.”