By Ennid Berger aka EB

The Dinner Party will be presented at the Helmerich Theater at TSKW from March 22 through April 1st.  It is an eight act comedic play with “songs and snacks” telling the story of Meme Zeitgeist and three waitresses, all named Alice, working in a tiny diner in the town of Alice, Texas.  

The Dinner Party is written and directed by Key West resident Chantal Pavageaux with a tasting menu created by Key West chef Abigail Houff.  

Chantal Pavageaux, is a writer, director and interdisciplinary artist who earned a BFA in directing from NYU/Tisch and who was awarded numerous fellowships and residencies, including a prestigious Drama League Fellowship in 2010, followed by a 2011 Drama League residency. In her own words, Chantal has long been enthralled by the story of “women through history, exploring the element of experiential moving through time.”

The idea for this play was inspired in part by Judy Chicago’s groundbreaking ceramic Dinner Party, one of the first feminist artworks, permanently installed at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, which provides a symbolic history of women in civilization. Also inspired by the Women’s Work Festival in Minneapolis, Chantal was able to draw on fifteen years of waitressing experience annotated in her “waitressing books” which then served as true to life references. She is grateful as well for the encouragement of Key West writer, Jane Dawkins.

Work on the theatrical production, began in 2010, with workshop performances and readings.  The TSKW play is the first full production of The Dinner Party.”  Chantal describes the production as “immersive theater” because the viewer becomes a participant. The play is set in a tiny diner that could be anywhere, but nominally exists in Alice, Texas, The audience is welcomed by Meme Zeitgeist, an in the moment everywoman, who presents a play within a play, with three waitresses telling the story of Meme’s rise to stardom.  (Each waitress/character is interchangeably named Alice in honor of Chantal’s great aunt who left her a collection of service industry name tags, each printed with the name Alice).

But wait, there’s more.  This is a “juke box” musical, with songs by 60’s girl groups, 70’s psychedelics, and contemporary music by Taylor Swift.  The production is enhanced by a series of one-bite courses matched to the theme of each of the eight acts.  Key West chef, Abigail Houff, has created a “one bite’” tasting menu that is meant to capture the emotional impact of each act’s sense of “truth, lies and fantasy…” A notable private caterer and chef in Key West, Abigail cooks at Unity Table at Williams Hall.  She is a plant-based chef and is a vegan pescatarian.  She favors bright fresh flavors that she describes as “fruit and veggie forward.”  

Fittingly, Abigail has a theater background – she was awarded a full scholarship to the University of Maryland, College Park, where she studied vocal music.  She has worked at TSKW and has performed musically at assorted venues in Key West including the Red Barn Theater.   Her selection of finger foods for “The Dinner Party,” reflects her experience performing in dinner theater as she is cognizant of the fact that one bite tastes are easy for the audience to consume.  Enjoying the challenge, Abigail chose foods that reference each act of the production.  The menu is meant to capture the emotional state of each act and includes dishes like gazpacho – a reference to Salvador Dali and Spain, and zucchini fudge cake which is a sweet and salty metaphor for the progress of female relationships over the years.  

The Dinner Party will be staged at the Helmerich Theater for a limited run of eight nights from March 22nd through April 1st.  Tickets may be purchased at or by calling 305-296-0458.

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