Beckwith Theatre Improv performs dinner show for graduation fundraiser

Published 10:28 am Monday, April 15, 2019

DOWAGIAC — From the bright lights, stage props and rows of audience seating, performers get used to their performance spaces.

Although they may be slightly more used to switching things up on the fly, the Beckwith Theatre Improv Group did not take to their usual stage Saturday evening, but instead hit the floor of the Moose Lodge with wit and audience participation games for a local fundraiser.

Saturday evening the Moose Lodge hosted a fundraiser for Celebration Graduation, the annual bash for graduating Dowagiac seniors. Around 50 people attended the event to enjoy a dinner and the floor-level performance of the Beckwith Theatre Improv Group. The dinner and improv night was the most recent fundraising effort for Celebration Graduation.

The improv crew does not often leave its regular spotlight at the Beckwith Theatre, except for the occasional theater fundraiser, but as the organizers of Celebration Graduation looked for new ways to raise funds for the graduating teens, they recruited the local on-the-spot creatives for what Ryan Murray called a “good evening entertainment.”

“I don’t think people think about live theater for evening entertainment,” Murray said. “I think if more people saw these shows, they’d come to more [Beckwith Theatre] stuff.”

Although the evening was a fundraiser for Celebration Graduation, Murray said the improv and dinner night was mutually beneficial. The event raised funds for Celebration Graduation and gave exposure to Beckwith.

“We started doing [improv] as a way to generate some income in the off season,” Murray said. “The improv is only one of the things we does as a theater. Doing this brings us out to the community.”

Murray said the troupe did its standard repertoire, which included acts that called for audience suggestions and even some participation from willing attendees. The improv group’s portion of the evening was an hour and a half long. Even without its usual space and spotlight, Murray said the performance went over well and kept the audience laughing.

“This was the first time we’ve been contacted and contracted and booked to do a show for an event, but it went really well,” Murray said. “The audience had a lot of energy, and we fed off each other. It was a good crowd of people.”

According to another member of the improv group, Ravan Bakeman, readying the Moose Lodge for improv was as simple as moving the buffet, then the Beckwith troupe did the rest.

“It was awesome. We didn’t have to worry about setup, or lighting or anything,” Bakeman said. “It was different, but it was fun.”

Readers can find more information on Celebration Graduation by visiting the Dowagiac Celebration Graduation 2019 Facebook page, and can follow similar events involving Beckwith Theatre Co. by visiting the Beckwith Theatre Co. Facebook page.