A new take on the dinner theater

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Let’s face it: Your dinner-party guests aren’t nearly this interesting.

Playwright Rachel Jendrzejewski is staging a series of “performative meals,” in which six actors come to dinner and remain in character for the whole two or so hours.

At the inaugural supper at Ngon Vietnamese Bistro this week, Jendrzejewski brought together a choreographer, an aerobics instructor, an entomologist, a grocery store manager, and a novelist. Jendrzejewski had assigned the dinner guests their character profiles ahead of time.

“I wanted them to all be characters who could be residents of St. Paul, but who might not necessarily come together for a meal,” she said.

At Ngon, only one of the five performers had acting experience. One of the more boisterous performances came from a guy whose real day job was in IT a Ph.D. student

researching neuroeconomics. Immersing himself in the role of the choreographer, he busted out some moves that were a cross between Michael Jackson and “Gangnam Style”‘s PSY, Jendrzejewski said.

Rachel812color.jpgThe performers can prepare for their roles, or improvise entirely. And the playwright pays for their meal, courtesy of a grant Jendrzejewski (pictured left) received from Irrigate Arts.

“Maybe after this shared experience, they can get together again at the same restaurant,” she said. “And it gives them a reason to go to a restaurant they had never been to before.”

The Stranger Stranger Supper Series is designed to build community and support businesses along the Central Corridor light-rail line during construction. The next two shows will be Tuesday at HOMI Restaurante Mexicano and Wednesday at Little Szechuan.

Eavesdroppers — er, audience members — can also join in or watch the interactions from a nearby table. But they must pay for their own meals.

Jendrzejewski randomly selects the submissions she receives — and will have another drawing at 5 p.m. today. Find out more about the project here.

(Photos courtesy of Rachel Jendrzejewski)