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St. John's Madrigal Dinner to raise funds for reading camp

By Autumn D. F. Hopkins
Kenny Kemp
Members of the St. John's Half-Act Players prepare for this weekend's Madrigal Dinner at the downtown Episcopal church.
WANT TO GO?WHERE: St. John's Episcopal Church, 1105 Quarrier St.WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday and SaturdayTICKETS: $25INFO: 304-346-0359 CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- St. John's Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston will host its biennial Madrigal Dinner on Friday and Saturday. The proceeds will benefit a newly formed summer camp, modeled on a program at the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington, to help Kanawha County children who struggle with reading skills and enjoyment.Bob Rosier, a member of St. John's Half-Act Players, said the Madrigal Dinner is a Middle-English tradition that includes music and a comic presentation, traditionally held during the 12 days of Christmas. These dinners, historically held at court, drew a thin line between the sacred and the secular world, combining humor, sacred music and feasting."The guest will be guided to their seats in the castle [St. John's dining hall' by town criers, where they will enjoy several courses and farcical play by St. John's Half-Act Players," explained Rosier. "The play will take place in sections throughout the meal as the performers mingle through the audience."
Rosier said three main presentations are traditionally made during the course of the dinner: a "boar's head," the "bull of wassail" and a "flaming dessert," all held over from Renaissance times. In this case, though, the boar's head will be papier-mache.The play, "Mertonsire and the Pirate's Tale," is a lighthearted comedy written by Richard Logan and Paul Brandvik of The Knight-Shtick Press in Minnesota.Sous Chef Wayne Poythress of the University of Charleston will prepare the meal. Now at the University of Charleston, Poythress formerly has worked at the Charleston Brewing Company, Bluegrass Kitchen and the Tarragon Room.Poythress, who assisted former Chef Gary Needham with the last two Madrigal Dinners, said, "The menu is fall inspired and will include a grilled peach salad, succulent stuffed pork loin with fig sauce, sweet potato mash, a roasted vegetable medley and a delectable bread pudding with bourbon sauce.""Of course," he added, "it will include a traditional wassail toast."(Wassail is similar to an apple cider served warm with spices.)Rosier said that due to the generous donations of the event's sponsors, who wish to remain anonymous, the majority of the ticket proceeds will go towards funding the reading camp.
Tickets will be sold until performance time on Friday if available, but Rosier strongly urges those interested to get tickets in advance. The last several performances have sold out.Reach Autumn D.F. Hopkins at or 304-348-1249.
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