Why not bring the theatre to the tea room? How perfect a marriage could there ever be? Just as in a real marriage, however, there will need to be some adjustments – not only can it be done – but it is being done!
On the 17th of January, my mother, my daughter and myself, all went to tea – but not just an ordinary afternoon tea (not that there is such a thing)– this was quite the extraordinary afternoon of tea!
The Grand Tea Room in Escondido, California, debuted its first ever tea-time theatre production of Oscar Wilde’s, The Importance of Being Earnest. The 413 Project is a San Diego based, not-for-profit, theatre group that rather flawlessly put on a marvelous show for us while we sipped our tea.
Katie and Julie Burlington, sisters, and founders of The 413 Project, along with the Director of the show, Chelsea Robinson, were all frequent patrons of The Grand Tea Room. Just as most of us know firsthand, things do happen while having tea. When they approached the owner, Louisa Magoon, she loved the idea and the ladies quickly agreed to collaborate with each other.
There’s the key word, “collaborate”: to work together, to team up, to join forces, to pool resources, to act as a team, to cooperate together; see where I’m going with this?
Over the past six years or so, we’ve sadly seen many of our colleagues and friends have to close their tea shop doors. Perhaps this could be an answer for those currently struggling or for those just wanting to do something different – to break out of tea shop / tea room doldrums, to encourage a greater sense of community, to support the arts, to come up with a win-win-win plan that also increases revenue and has everyone walking away completely happy.
This could be it! Eight shows took place at The Grand Tea Room – all of them full! We attended the Sunday afternoon production for a cost of $52 per person and found everything to be superb. I’ve paid almost that amount for afternoon tea without a show, so I found the price to be exceptionally fair.
I did interview both the director, Chelsea, and the tea room owner, Louisa, to get their perspectives on the collaboration. Both would do it again in a “heartbeat.” They split the take at the door – one third to the theatre group and two thirds to the tea room – both seemed extremely comfortable with the split and the final take.
We’ve all heard of Dinner Theatre. This is similar but smaller, and can be modified to suit the production group and the tea room, as well as doing justice to the original written work. When doing an Internet search to see if any other tea rooms were doing this type of thing I didn’t find much – but what I did find was a rare gem.
Gail Gastelu, the founder of The Tea House Times, did an interview with speaker, author, and playwright, Laurie Nienhaus, about this very same topic. With Laurie’s permission, I am including the link to her website.
Upon arrival at her site, click on the blue box that says “BOOK TITLES”. She has written an e-book entitled “TeaTime Theatre”, in which she gives tea room owners a detailed, 34-page, richly-insightful guide to how this is done. You will be guided to Smashwords where you can download the information in a format that suits you. She is graciously offering this e-book for free.
“Weaving an engaging theatre production into teatime creates a novel and memorable experience for your guests. But, as intriguing as Teatime Theatre is, I knew it might also seem like a monstrous project for busy tearooms. I wanted tearoom owners – as well as fundraising groups, churches, and not for profits – to have all the information they need to make Teatime Theatre simple, fun, timesaving and lucrative.”
-Laurie Nienhaus of Gilded Lily Publishing
For tea shop owners that offer a different style of service, other than the traditional British-style, there is still so much you can do and offer your customer base that could incorporate theatre: open mic, spoken word, book readings, youth theatre, community theatre, etc.
A great many artists are looking for venues and by offering collaborations of all sorts, you can fill your shops with enthusiastic, and talented people to entertain your customers, and to bring in a whole bunch of new ones – while serving and selling them TEA.