Once Kathy Neggers has a writing idea in her head, it stays there. 

It’s there when she’s trying to sleep. When she’s showering. When she’s driving. 

“The characters are there trying to get out,” Neggers says. 

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Neggers loves storytelling. The process of putting her thoughts onto paper or a document is what excites her the most—when she’s able to read what’s come together after finding the exact wording she wants to express. 

“If I could just sit all day and write, I would,” she said.

Neggers has never felt as though she’s ever experienced writer’s block. She has always gone wherever her thoughts take her. With this approach, she has delved into the literature of playwright, and created her first ever play.

A production called “Dinner Theater,” that will be performed on September 7, at 4 p.m. at Philipstown Depot Theatre in Garrison.

The story of “Dinner Theater” is set during the 2030s. It’s a world where food and water are scarce. People aren’t exactly living. They’re simply surviving. A grandmother is trying to tell her granddaughter of a different time—when food tasted good, when there was an abundance of it, and when people went to the dinner theater. 

The play will be a part of the 13th Annual Aery Theatre Company 20/20 One-Act Festival, where there are 20 plays each performed in a 20-minute timeframe. Tickets for the event will go on sale August 15 at philipstowndepottheatre.org.

The play’s plot, adapted from a short story, reflects a dystopian way of life very familiar to its cast members. Kate Eana, who plays a scared 4-year old girl in the production’s opening, says the setting reminds her of Pixar’s 2008 film, WALL-E. 

Such a bleak way of living has also been recognizably portrayed in TV shows.

“Before I read (the script) Kathy spoke to me about it and it seemed really interesting because it reminded me of (Black Mirror),” Becca Rodriguez, of Somers, who plays an 8-year old girl, said. 

“It could be a Black Mirror episode, or a Twilight Zone episode. It really has that black and white essence of the future. It’s really smart. I like it.”

Neggers came up with the story idea while enrolled in a writing class. Her assigned topic was on the dinner theater, a theater where meals are included with the price of admission into plays.

After a few days of brainstorming, Neggers came up with the idea of providing a futuristic portrayal of her topic. The idea that, years from now, people will no longer go to the dinner theater, because there will be no food to go with the show.

“We do so much with food that revolves around socialization,” Neggers says. “Then what if suddenly it didn’t? What would life be like?”
She could visualize everything. Gunfire, screaming, shouting and the stomping of boots during riots over water. 

Halt! Halt! Back up!

A girl singing softly.

Food. Glo-ri-ous food.

The repetitive drone of a computer’s voice.

Dinner. Theater. Is. Illegal.

The cast is confident that the play can deliver a sobering what-if, without the audience feeling as though their current morals are being attacked. 

“It doesn’t feel like Kathy is necessarily pointing fingers or blaming anyone,” Rodriguez said. “When it’s performed, I just hope it gives people a moment to reflect.”

Rehearsal 

There is still over a month before the performance date and the cast of five is gathering for an hour-long rehearsal. 

In the story, Margie Marek, of Mahopac, will be playing Neggers’ favorite character, a computer named LEXi-9000 that helps the grandmother teach her grandchild about the time when food was more plentiful. LEXi-9000 is also the only character in the play who has a name—a decision made by Neggers to highlight a certain loss of humanity suffered by people in the future. 

“I hope (the play is) eye opening for (the audience). This is not necessarily a portrayal of the (definite) future, but this is something that could potentially happen,” Marek says. “If this is where we’re going, we have to do something about it now.”

Jane Kartsch, of Mahopac, who plays the grandmother, supports the moral the play is set to tell—a message that attempts to shed light on the importance of caring for the environment.

“It used to be once a week I’d read something about climate change,” she says. “Now it’s every day. It seems like things are getting progressively worse.” 

By telling a story of a world that’s fallen into despair, Neggers hopes to help people appreciate what they have now and motivate them to protect the earth. 

“You want to get your message out, but you don’t want to preach to people. Because people don’t like to be preached to,” Neggers says. “So, I wanted to do it in a way that everybody could understand. People have been granddaughters, people have been grandmothers. And they want the best for their grandchildren.”

“Dinner Theater” has been in the works for about six months now. For now, Neggers is as ready as she is anxious about September 7. Though, as she sits in her home, slowly scanning the script while the cast reads their lines, she is able to take in the anticipation that the characters she once merely visualized, now have life.

She can hear LEXi-9000’s monotone voice through Marek.

Dinner. Theater. Is. Illegal.

“I’m the director, I’m the producer, (and) we have to get our own props and actors. That in the process is a little terrifying,” Neggers says. “But as I see it while I’m watching the actors speak my words and my actions, there’s something very exhilarating and exciting about that.”