A Virtual Tour of
Gussies/Stray Katz Club Cafe
Coos Bay, Oregon USA
As we embarked on chapter two of our little troupe's new found adventures, we found yet another new avenue to explore in the form of Dinner Theater.
Sometimes called "Dinner and a Show," it is a form of entertainment that combines a nice restaurant meal with a staged play. Sometimes the play is incidental entertainment secondary to the meal (think night club); other times the play IS the main event!
Historically, a tavern in Richmond VA holds the title of being the first Dinner Theater in the nation back in 1953, but it would be the 1970's before the art form reached heyday status. Particularly popular were the ones who used former movie stars(like Betty Grable, Roddy McDowall, Jane Russell, Ann Miller, and Mickey Rooney) to star in the productions which provided regional entertainment for local audiences. Burt Reynolds owned a successful line of dinner theaters in Florida from 1979 to 1997, as did actor Earl Holliman in Texas.
It was in this same generous spirit that Gussies restaurant first approached the On Broadway Thespians with the concept of doing Dinner Theater. Not only did it afford a chance to return to our roots of live intimate theater, but it was also an opportunity to offer something uniquely different here on the southcoast -- dinner and a show type entertainment! Additionally we could see a whole other host of possibilities as well.......Theater Improv, Reader's Theater, Musicals, Murder Mysteries, Poetry Slams, Songwriter's showcase, Open Mic Night, and so forth.
As we rolled up our sleeves in anticipation, Gussies too searched for additional ways to reinvent itself in a slumping economy. Midway through 2008, the restaurant & bar began instigating a number of structural changes beginning with a brand new name on the marquee -- the Stray Katz Club Cafe! To accomodate live theater, room remodeling is currently underway to further separate performing spaces from the bar. The new owners also began offering karaoke and live music in the form of rock, blues, and jazz as another means to expand & attract new clientele.
Nestled in the bosum of downtown Empire district, Stray Katz was located directly across from the Empire 7-11. Five more OBT productions of various genre plays were tried there, but lack of stage size and adequate lighting, coupled with green room/dressing room woes further compounded everyone's frustrations. Parents were nervous about letting their children be in a play that was running next door to a bar. Play attendance sank to an all time low. Sadly, it closed it's doors in late 2008, victim to a multitude of problems including an downed economy.
When Spring rolled around in early 2009, the restaurant opened one last time under a new name and new management -- Genevieve's Restaurant. A new deal was struck between the new restaurant and OBT for 2009. It lasted only one production. The restaurant closed permanently thereafter. OBT was homeless once again!
"OBT: Enriching the lives of patrons and players of all ages,
through the magic of live theatre."
(This page last updated May 1, 2011)
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