Dinner offers traditional Renaissance food, music

Abby Johnston

There will be plenty of singing, sword fights and bread pudding at the Texas Union this week when the 30th annual Madrigal Dinner takes over the ballroom from Nov. 19 to Nov. 22. The cast and crew have revamped old traditions for this milestone anniversary, with additions sure to please both the ears and the stomach.

Madrigal Dinner is a longstanding student-produced play. Each year, open auditions are held to cast actors, singers and crew, all supervised and coached by fellow students. The night includes singing classic Christmas carols, original songs and, this year, traditional Renaissance madrigals, all accompanied by dinner and dessert for the audience. Musical numbers center on a student-penned play that is largely in the vein of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, combining both classical theater elements and modern humor.

The cast and crew practiced far into the night in the Union Ballroom, perfecting fighting sequences and practicing audience interaction. Even during rehearsal breaks, the actors never broke character and instead practiced “wenching,” or serenading individuals or small groups, to stand-in audience members. Directors and costume designers did not break their focus while groups of actors circled them and sang snarky a capella, and modern madrigals sang in perfectly sweet harmonies of the Renaissance tradition. In addition to this form of audience interaction, magic tricks will also be performed for the audience on dinner breaks.

Despite a somewhat tense rehearsal atmosphere, Spanish senior Sandra Khalil sat calmly in the back of the room. She listened attentively to questions and groups practicing their wenching, but overall the show’s producer seemed at ease.

“We’ve put a lot of thought into this show,” Khalil said. “It’s going to be really epic.”

After acting for Madrigal Dinner for the past two years, Khalil decided to take on a different role for her senior year. Juggling publicity and management of both behind the scenes and on-stage production was a sharp juxtaposition to her time spent acting on stage, but Khalil said she appreciated the opportunity to participate in Madrigal in a different way.

“I’m super excited about being a part of Madrigal in its 30th year,” Khalil said. “I fell in love with it my first year, and one of my dreams that surfaced through that was wanting to make the show grow. I think we’ve been able to do that.”

Khalil notes that it is the enthusiasm of the students that carries the production and makes it memorable.

“It has a very specific atmosphere,” she said. “When you’re watching you can tell how much the actors and singers are having fun singing songs to you and interacting with you. The energy is infectious.”