We started making people laugh in 1991 and some of those folks are still laughing.
We feed you with some of the best local cuisine we can find. When you're too full to move, we turn out all the lights. So you may as well stay for the show.
Looking for a dinner theatre in Lawrence, Ottawa, Garnett? You won't find a better deal than this. Why pay double and fight city traffic? We have a ticket with your name on it.
There are any number of dinner theaters, Civil War-era churches, non-profits that give tens of thousands of dollars to other non-profits, and lots of all-volunteer organizations out there. To find them all in a single package? That’s The Chamber Players in Garnett, KS.
Founded in 1991, the community theatre quickly established a following selling hundreds of tickets to its earliest productions. At the time, the company performed anywhere space could be had: church basements, empty storefronts, school auditoriums. The audiences continued to grow for the nomadic troupe until, in 2007, with the assistance of local theatre patron Thelma Moore, the company purchased and renovated the United Presbyterian Church at 5th & Walnut in Garnett. It was constructed in 1859 as the region’s border skirmishes kindled what would become the U.S. Civil War two years later.
“This simply shouldn’t exist in a town this size.”
The company has continued to grow - selling thousands of tickets annually and regularly testing the limits of the playhouse’s capacity. None of this would happen, of course, if there wasn’t something worth seeing an hour outside of any urban/suburban community.
Olathe, Lawrence, Emporia and Topeka are all roughly an hour from Garnett and, for the most part, are home to theatre companies with budgets reaching into the millions annually. So how did Garnett’s amateurs get a toe-hold in this competitive environment? With entertainment options plentiful at everyone’s fingertips, how does live theatre thrive in rural Kansas?
The Chamber Players know their audience and stick close to PG-13 comedies that have the broadest appeal. And they’re good! The proof is in the hundreds of tickets sold to each show, the frequency of “SOLD OUT” notices and the enthusiastic audience reactions.
“We saw this at the professional dinner theater in the city
and this was just as good.”
Meals are catered by local and regional favorites. (Chicken Annie’s famous fried chicken has been featured a number of times in recent years.)
Partnership is also key. The company is self-sufficient financially - debt-free and with a modest grant from the City of Garnett annually to help with advertising expenses, generous pricing on photography and publicity from local studio Rockers Photography, and then an idea that started as a whim and matured into a $70,000 mountain of donations to youth activities, missions groups and other civic organizations.
In the early years, the volunteer actors waited tables during dinner, cleaned up, donned costumes, performed and stayed late into the night preparing the theater for the next day’s show. In 2010, that all changed. The Chamber Players were exploring ways to reduce their largest expense: catering. The local high school’s intermission bake sale during its own production sparked an idea that’s since been successfully duplicated by others.
“Garnett’s Chamber Players are big-time small-town theatre.”
What if The Chamber Players made their own audience available to the high school Drama Club for a modified bake sale? And what if the energetic youths could replace the actors as volunteer servers through the dinner hour? The theater could remove dessert from its catering costs and the Drama Club would have another fundraiser: As it happened, a wildly lucrative fundraiser for the kids. With their needs soon met, it was time to offer the opportunity to other groups.
Now, Drama Club is joined by 4-H clubs, church youth groups, foreign missions teams, cheerleading squads, dance teams, even the Daughters of the American Revolution in adding their volunteer efforts to those of the Chamber Players. As of late 2019, approximately $70,000 has been donated by our audiences directly to these other organizations. We couldn’t be more proud.
“I didn’t expect to find this here.”
Pricing is less than half that of other theaters in the area: just $24 for adults and $20 for K-12 students. No credit cards are accepted and parking is free. Make your reservation by phone, email or Facebook. A real person will confirm it with you - no automaton customer service here.
A throwback? Only in the best sense. Come be charmed.
The 29th Season starts September 5, 2019.