“Encore!” a spectator shouted out following one of the first performances of “Moon Over Buffalo,” a play, which has been running at Grove Hall for two weekends and will finish it’s run this weekend. The Saturday show has already sold out, but space is still available for the showing both tonight and on Sunday.
Co-owners, husband and wife duo, Mark and Tina Bye have come to coin the term “volunteer-professionals” for their ensemble. Upon first consideration, it may appear as though it is an oxymoron, but after taking in their rendition of Moon Over Buffalo, it becomes clear that it is a spot on definition. Though the team may be volunteering their time, it by no means is a reflection of the quality. In fact, they have several people who have worked in the field professionally and who are so committed to the cause at Grove Hall that they donate their time and talent for free. Richard Hansen has won awards for his wig and costume design, Howard Welburn performed dinner theater professionally for years, while Connor Stacey doubled as actor and caterer (with help from his family who volunteered to help out in the kitchen) for the night. The set design was also more elaborate this year featuring a rotating stage which enabled them to essentially have two sets in one: the first the home of the main characters and the second the set of their theatre where they mount plays. The set was designed and built (with the help from the cast and crew) by Pierre Lachance who has also worked on sets for Cirque du Soleil. Summer Eastwood, who plays one of the lead roles in the performance and who studied acting after high school, admits that she prefers the atmosphere at Grove Hall where the competitive nature is erased and instead it is everyone on the team giving their all to ensure the performance is the best that it can be.
One thing that especially delighted the audience, was when the cast doubled as their servers during intermission. Lots of laughs ensued as the actors, many of whom remained in character, set down dishes of a deliciously mouth-watering meal. It was an added level of immediacy with the actors that the audience ate right up. Then the lights dimmed and the actors seamlessly transitioned away from servers and back to full-out actors.
As the night drew to a close, the audience went home singing the praises of both the performance and the meal. Many revelled at the fact that such an opportunity exists in their own back yard and yet could give any equivalent option in the city a run for their money. When the actors finished cleaning up and already prepping for the following night, they remained on the steps of the hall riding out the adrenaline rush from performing and they insist that nothing comes close to the rush that they get from it. Regardless of how tired they were, they agreed they were going to have a hard time unwinding and getting to sleep that night. One thing is for sure: the success of the event is driven by the passion each and every member of the team.