Original writer, Briane Nasimok returns to where is all began to pen the newest Feast Dinner Theatre show called, ‘Up in Smoke,’ which celebrates the milestone mark of 40 successful seasons.

Penning a script becomes a transformative journey for Briane Nasimok

When Toronto resident and freelancer Briane Nasimok answered the call from Asterisk Productions (now ICON Motion Inc.) almost 40 years ago and agreed to fly out and help develop the concept of the dinner theatre in Summerside, he knew this wasn’t about the end product. It was about the journey.

“I was fairly young in the industry, but had directed shows, improvisation, knew a little about music, so Asterisk Productions put me in touch with producer Don Groom and I flew out to P.E.I.,” commented Nasimok, who also admitted that the cast and crew got off to a shaky start.

“I had doubts that it would continue when I saw the first show,” he shared.

The ‘Governor’s Feast’ opened at Brothers 2 Restaurant in 1979. The cast would choose the new governor of P.E.I. from the audience, serve the dinner, and combine a set script of song and comedy with a lot of audience interaction.

“It was a big learning curve for us all, but the second year I began to see it had a chance to keep going and growing. As we started to evolve I thought, ‘there’s no limit to what we can do when it comes to themes,” reflected Nasimok.

“Looking back, when we brought the show to P.E.I. there was not much going on in relation to theatre. This became something for the community. People began to say, ‘this is what we have.”

The seed was planted, and it sprouted.

“We developed a bunch of great people from the cast. There was one character called ‘Cookie the Cook’ (Claudette Getson) in the original Governor’s Feast and she was remarkable. Her character was a serious, angry, cook and people would come back to make her smile.

“Once a man called Cookie over and said, ‘there’s a fly in my chowder.’ He had taken a zipper from home and planted it in his bowl, but Cookie was having none of it and made him drink the chowder. She was very believable, to name but one of many great characters.”

The Governor’s Feast ran for the next three consecutive years, before the production evolved into ‘The Prohibition Feast.’ After which became, ‘The Flyer’s Feast,’ which was established and produced in Charlottetown and ran for three consecutive seasons.

In 1987 dinner theatre would reinvent the game to appeal to the majority of audiences through music and script. The Governor’s Feast presented ‘Summer of ’61,’ which became a home run.

“People were invested. It was no longer just a play and there was no director cue involved. It became organic, and every night it was like watching a different event. We learned quickly that the same old jokes didn’t apply every night,” remarked Nasimok, who garnered the nickname the “Godfather” of theatre.

He used an example of a puppeteer pulling strings to describe the dinner theatre concept.

“If you focus on the puppets and ignore the strings that control their movements, then the concept has worked. The characters become real, and the audience no longer sees them running around dropping mussels here and there and having to rush and get drinks while they interact.

“It’s telling versus showing,” he acknowledged. “If you show a character and the audience are not exactly sure who he or she is, then the character can evolve. And I love planting a seed in people’s minds and having that ‘a-ha!’ moment.”

Over a 10-year span, Nasimok flew from his base in Toronto to P.E.I. for the summers.

“When that chapter of my life closed and I went on to other ventures, I still kept a close eye on the show over the years to make sure it continued to be a success,” he pointed out.

Since the original show, more than 150 productions and half a million people had the time of their lives.

“The thing I am proudest about is the people who have been entertained, amused and touched by the shows, as well as the actors that have gone through the doors and used it as a launch pad to a successful career – because if you can do this then you can do anything,” stated Nasimok.

‘Feast Dinner Theatre,’ the name it has remained, is Canada’s longest running production.

“When you talk about what people learn over the years, I learned a lot. I understand the importance of playing truth, the dynamic, and how characters carry themselves,” noted Nasimok, who acknowledged Feast helped him acquire the tools and skills to go from stage directing, writing and acting to television.

After 40 seasons of success, Nasimok travelled back to P.E.I. to pen the newest production called, ‘Up in Smoke,’ which celebrates the theatre milestone mark.

He ended with the Yiddish word “bashert” to sum up his journey with Feast.

“It means I was in the right place at the right time. If Don had not found me and used someone else, who knows where the show could have gone.”

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