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FOOD- THE DISH- Dinner + Theater: Could the play be the dining thing?

Published February 12, 2009 in issue 0806 of the Hook

Crimes of the Heart is the first presentation by at the new Webster Studio dinner/theater in Barboursville .
Charlottesville has lots of dinner and plenty of theater, but starting February 14 you'll be able to get both at once at the new Webster Studio dinner-theater on Route 33 in Barboursville.

The Saturday-night-only events kick off Valentine's Day with Crimes of the Heart, a popular play (and 1986 movie starring current Albemarle resident Sissy Spacek, former Albemarlean Jessica Lange, and Diane Keaton.)

It's a play Webster Studio founder David Webster knows well– he directed it twice before in Atlanta and Savannah– and the third time is "by far a better show," he says, thanks to the talent of the local cast of six.

The performances will be preceded by a multi-course dinner prepared by regional catering company Meriwether Godsey. The menu-- available at websterstudio.org– offers organic fare and local goods including roasted rosemary chicken, grilled tuna, bacon wrapped beef loin with red wine sauce, and, for vegetarians, braised tofu with shiitake mushrooms in red wine sauce. As is tradition with dinner theater, the costumed actors are also wait staff.

The all inclusive fee– tickets, dinner, tax, tip and parking– is $78 per person (wine not included) and Webster, who is also a film director, says proceeds will go to training local actors who'll appear in his future movies. The theater can accommodate 50 patrons.

Crimes of the Heart will run through April 18, says Webster, and already several performances (including the Valentine's Day event) are sold out, perhaps in part thanks to Webster's low-cost advertising blitz that had him posting signs on roadsides and in medians during January until Albemarle County forced him to take them down.

After Crimes: a Webster-penned play called Frank Sinatra Stole My Thunder. Webster says he's confident audiences will enjoy his own work. Not only did his team win this year's Adrenaline Film Festival– a 24-hour movie making challenge– at the Virginia Film Festival, but prior to moving to Charlottesville in 2000, Webster lived in Atlanta where in the mid-1990s his one-man show– a 90-minute improv routine that changed every week– sold out 1,500 times in a row, and eventually won him a regional Emmy Award after it was picked up and aired by cable station Turner South.

Webster says he's pleased with the local dinner-theater location-- Stonefire Station, an event facility just west of Route 20 on Route 33 in Barboursville– and hopes to continue the performances as long as there's demand.

"If people want a dinner theater," he says, "all they have to do is support the first show." -- Courteney Stuart

BoS not keen on local food hub

Last week, the Board of Supervisors declined to vote on whether or not to give $80,000 in Economic Opportunity Funds for a local food hub, a decision that seems to have flummoxed the project's creators. The last time Kate Collier of Feast! and her partner Marisa Vrooman met with the BoS, Collier said their "their response was positive, but they want to see more financial data before making a decision."

Last week, however, free marketers from the County Farm Bureau, Albemarle Truth in Taxation Alliance (ATTA), and Forever Albemarle basically said the same thing: noble idea, but let the private sector fund it. 

However, seven people spoke in favor of the food hub at last week's meeting, saying the funds would help the hub get off the ground and be in a better position to get private funds, not to mention the way it would support small, local farmers and make local produce more readily available to local customers. 

When Collier tried to explain that the food hub would be an investment in the area's agricultural infrastructure, Supervisor Dennis Rooker argued that that kind of investment should come from the private sector. 

So, then, what exactly are the Economic Opportunity Funds for? There has been $250,000 sitting unused in the fund since January 2007, but it appears that the BoS still doesn't know exactly what it should be used for. 

"We can't let this first set back stop our efforts," writes Collier on the Local Food Hub blog. "But the reality is, this project won't happen without funding. It won't happen without at least $250K in start-up money. If funding doesn't come in the next month, the project won't happen this year and momentum, qualified staff and our energy may be lost."

Some openings

12th Street Taphouse: Former chef and part owner of Michael's Bistro, Chuck Adcock, has opened the 12th Street Taphouse in the former Spry's BBQ and Northern Exposure location across from West Main's Courtyard by Marriott.

Long before that, the building was home to Zipper's and Expresso International (yes, ex-presso), which later became the Italian Villa on Emmet Street. Word on the street is that'll you'll find larger, more reasonably priced portions of familiar Michael's Bistro-like fare, including a bison burger, beef brisket, and meatloaf.

Locals appear to be raving about the beer selection, both on tap and bottled, which is extensive and reasonably priced. 

Tara Thai: Small chain Thai joint Tara Thai opened up in the old Casella's space in the Barracks Road Shopping Center, joining our local line-up of Thai places, including the Lime Leaf in the Rio Hill Shopping Center, Pad Thai on Carlton Road, and Thai 99 on Gardens Boulevard.

It's the 8th edition to the budding Tara Thai chain, which includes restaurants in Maryland, DC, Falls Church, and Richmond. Reviews have been mixed and varied, everything from "atrocious" and "pricey" to "fabulous" and "chic," but all seem to agree that the blue Sea World-themed decor and the lovely hostesses who greet you at the front door make it a hip new addition.



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