CUBA, NY -- Life, death and dinner are what the Olean Community Theatre has in store for audiences at Palmer Opera House this weekend. The OCT’s production of "The Big Meal "runs Friday through Sunday.
The play, a multi-generational tale by Dan LeFranc, follows an American family over the course of about 80 years.
The cast has rehearsed nightly Mondays through Fridays for the past six weeks, according to director Ken Richards.
“It’s been an interesting process because this particular play is published with the lines going up and down the page in the landscape position, rather than portrait,” Richards said. “The reason it’s done this way is because it’s like any family dinner where people are talking all over each other, or two people are carrying on one conversation while another two are carrying on another conversation.”
“It’s been a great challenge for the actors," he said. "It’s not an easy thing to do. We’re so used to listening to a line, then responding to a line. Although this happens in the show, it doesn’t always happen.”
The show’s set also breaks away from normal theater conventions.
“There is no set,” Richards said. “I was intrigued that we only needed a few tables and chairs.”
The action takes place over the course of many meals shared by the family in the play.
This will be the fourth time the OCT has performed in the Palmer Opera House, located at 12 W. Main St., Richards said.
“This our fourth time going in there with different shows, but it’s the first time that we’ll actually be using the stage,” Richards said. “Every other time we’ve had the set down on the floor and played to the corner. We did a show two years ago where we did theater in the round and played to the middle.”
Richards described the opera house as “beautiful.” The Cuba Friends of Architecture, a not-for-profit group dedicated to restoring historically significant buildings, recently renovated the building.
“They’ve done meticulous work in renovating it from a structure that had no roof and by most estimations should have been bulldozed in. They have gone out of their way to bring this building back to life,” Richards said. “It is an intimate space, but it is a big enough space that you can have a decent-size audience.”
The OCT, an all-volunteer organization, relies on help from the community to make its shows possible.
“We have about 20 people involved,” Richards said. “Being a small show, it doesn’t take a lot of people to put it on. That number can move up to 150 to 160 people if you’re doing a huge musical.”
Richards said he started volunteering with the OCT in the fall of 1979. The OCT began in the summer of that year.
“I wasn’t there for the first show they did, "The Odd Couple," but I’ve been there ever since. I’m the oldest active member on the board of directors,” Richards said.
Funding for "The Big Meal" came from the Allegany County Area Foundation, which provided a grant of $850 earlier this year.
According to the theater’s website, the Cattaraugus County branch of the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Program regularly awards funding to the OCT. However, because "The Big Meal" is not being performed in Cattaraugus County none of that funding could be used toward the production, said Richards.
A member of the OCT’s Board of Directors found the grant being offered by the Allegany County Area Foundation. The theater applied for it, and the foundation accepted the application, said Richards.
According to Richards, the treasurer on the board of directors, “We pay a token rental fee to be able to use the theater. We used the funds to help offset that cost.”
Richard said he believes that every single person leaving the theater this weekend will have been able to relate to the show and its blend of family drama and humor.
“The thing the audience should be looking for is the opportunity to look at a family and laugh at it,” he said.
"The Big Meal" opens Friday night at 7:30 p.m. Saturday’s show also starts at 7:30 p.m. Sunday’s is at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and youth under 18. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.oleancommunitytheatre.com/the-big-meal/.