4940 Peach Street Erie, Pa 16509
“A CANTERBURY FEAST” TIMELINE
Mercyhurst College Mercyhurst College last year last year back to Erie at 35th year & Riverside Inn at Mercyhurst College at Riverside the Station Dinner Station Dinner Theatre Theatre
The Longest Running Medieval-style Dinner Theatre in the U.S.A….
”A CANTERBURY FEAST”
The iconic “Saturday Night Live” just celebrated 40 years this year. Five years later, in 1981, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer get married at St Paul's Cathedral, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats opens in New York City, Raiders of the Lost Ark opens in the US, MTV starts broadcasting in the US, Princess Diana pregnancy announced that Prince William would be born in June 1982…”A CANTERBURY FEAST” is performed for the first time at Mercyhurst College.
Opening this week to an unprecedented thirty-five years, "A Canterbury Feast" is the true one of a kind original theatrical dining phenomenon in the tri-state area.
There is simply nothing like it!
FACT: “A Canterbury Feast” is the Longest
running medieval musical comedy in the entire United States of America.
When Mercyhurst College professor Igor Stalsky initially conceived "A Canterbury Feast," he intended it to be a one-time thing. But the show was so popular that everyone requested an encore. Thirty five years later, though Stalsky's direct involvement ended in 1996, "Canterbury" marches on. "It's like the Energizer Bunny," Stalsky said. "It never stops!"
The show closes with "When That I Was And a Little Tiny Boy," the minstrel song from Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" that Stalsky says moved him to create the first "Canterbury Feast."
Feasting is still just as much a part of the event as ever, with loaves of bread flying through the air and meaty legs being ripped from roasted chickens. While no silverware is in sight, slices of cheese and apples make handy scoops for the Zuppa Inglese.
When the actors mingle with the audience, they become knaves and wenches with different names and costumes than the characters onstage, and won't hesitate to instigate a toast with a hearty bellow. In between slurps of soup and gulps of wine, cries of "Wassail!" fill the room.
"The performers feed off of audience feedback," Stalsky said. "What's funny, they keep. What isn't, they tweak."
Paul Urbanowicz, original cast member & owner of Erie Station Dinner Theatre writes...
July 31, 1981, “A Canterbury Feast” was performed for the first time. The place was Mercyhurst College, in the basement of Old Main (the old gym when it was an all girls college). It was the perfect place to hold a medieval feast…high ceilings, dark, window wells on either side of the room which allowed very little light, tile floors…an ideal medieval castle look.
I had just graduated from then Mercyhurst College in May, active in dinner theatre since 1978 when the College offered classes in the subject during the then “intersession” courses between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Igor Stalsky, then a professor at Mercyhurst College, continued the course after the theatre department was dissolved.
A core group of us performed together for a
number of years (John Burton, Karen Bowlby (Nasca), Mary Beth Finke
(Mathews) and Paul Urbanowicz) in popular dinner theatre shows including
“Side by Side by Soundheim”, “Tintypes” and others.
When Igor told us he had been researching medieval shows and was wanting to put together a “medieval” show over the summer of 1981, we were all game. He recruited the four of us, as well as others, totaling thirteen performers and musicians in all, including now professional magician, Bob Borgia, Jr. (“Canterbury” was Bob’s first public magic show.)
The original plan was to pitch a circus tent on the campus and perform and serve the food inside the tent. The project was too expensive and the old gym in the basement of Old Main was discovered as a perfect location and being within walking distance to the kitchen, made a lot of sense.
The first “Canterbury” turned out to be a four and a half hour epic. It was broken into seven sections, dealing with “love and marriage medieval-style” to a “magic show”. Six shows were scheduled the first year and, without knowing what to expect, it drew full houses the first year out.
“Canterbury” stayed at Mercyhurst College for
several years, growing and growing in popularity throughout the region.
It would actually go on sale around New Years and some years the entire
run would sell out in matter of hours or days.
In 1990, the tenth anniversary year of “A Canterbury Feast”, I left the Erie Playhouse to build a successful seasonal dinner theatre program at the Riverside Inn in Cambridge Springs. In my move, I discussed with Igor the possibility of expanding “Canterbury” and running it at two places. He agreed to the idea and so “A Canterbury Feast” ran at both Mercyhurst College and Riverside Inn from 1990 to 1996. “Canterbury” was instrumental in creating the success I developed in Cambridge Springs, drawing more people from greater distances.
In the winter of 1997, after 16 years, Igor and Marietta Stalsky decided to leave “Canterbury” and asked Rae Jean and I to take it over. We were honored that they would trust us to continue the tradition of “A Canterbury Feast” and accepted the challenge.
1996 was the last year “A Canterbury Feast” was performed at Mercyhurst College, but it continued in Cambridge Springs from 1997 to 2002. The twentieth anniversary, in the year 2000, saw a record number of people seeing “Canterbury” with over 9,000 in attendance.
In 2003 Rae Jean and I moved “A Canterbury Feast” (and other shows we created in the like-ness of “Canterbury”) back to its roots here in Erie and it’s current home at the Erie Station Dinner Theatre, just North of the Millcreek Mall on Peach Street.
Now, after running the medieval feast for 19 years on our own, Rae Jean and I are proud to present the 35th anniversary of “A Canterbury Feast”, the medieval-style musical comedy, in the style of Monty Python…with an ALL NEW show “Canterbury ‘Tails’”, written by Canterbury veteran David Durst. What better theme for a medieval musical comedy. Several veteran cast members are featured including director David Durst, as well as Barry McAndrew (celebrating his 32nd year), Pam Durst (the one and only Wench Zelda), the versatile Carrie Smith, Katie States, B.J. Waide, Mike Nasca…along with new comers Josh Lapping and Gerry Munn.
This very talented group of people takes on the roles of Wenches and Knaves, which not only performs, but also serves a spectacular “Feast”, and has audiences cheering as well.
The “Canterbury Feast” tradition lives on and all in the region are invited to experience or re-experience it once again. In this fast paced world, “A Canterbury Feast” is the perfect way to forget all your cares of the day with lots of laughter and great food. So Eat, Drink and be Merry with No Utensils in the 35th Annual “A Canterbury Feast”.
Where else can you get a HUGE, delicious medieval "feast" and devour it with your hands? That's right, "A Canterbury Feast", the medieval musical comedy dinner theatre. The food, the performers, the chemistry, the overall ambience of the "Canterbury" experience unite to make this an unbelievable dining event . But, the food has always been a big part of "A Canterbury Feast" success.
Only two chefs have been in charge of the delicious food presented at "A Canterbury Feast"… veteran chef, Bob Stewart (1991-present), along with original "Canterbury" recipes from chef John Washington (1981 to 1996) from the Mercyhurst days, combine to create a mouth watering array of food that rivals a somewhat religious experience eaten over a three hour period. Picture this, a thick, homemade beef and fresh vegetable soup served in bowls with large loaves of hearth bread to tear apart to eat the soup with. Followed by huge wooden bowls filled with summer leaf salad and the special Tabbard Inn dressing, topped with cheese.
A meal in itself: right? This is just the beginning. Then comes a 2 1/4 lb. whole roasted, savory stuffed chicken, NOT for two people, but for EACH person. This chicken is to die for. A crispy seasoned outside, with a secret stuffmg that permeates the entire chicken.
Still not full? The evening is topped off with
the delicious "Canterbury" dessert known as zuppe inglese, an old
English triffle which consists of a special thick pudding, light cake,
strawberries and whipped cream.
Put this all together and this is what's known as "The Feast".
The Canterbury Clock:
Students, faculty and administrators have nicknamed it "Big Bill ," as it stands smack dab in the middle of Garvey Park at now Mercyhurst University, but the park’s newest addition came from another classic Mercyhurst tradition…”A Canterbury Feast”. The profits from this highly acclaimed, highly successful Canterbury Feast were utilized to purchase the $20,000 clock, which was installed at Mercyhurst College in 1991. "The clock is the ‘feast's’ gift to the college community to say thanks to everyone who helped bring it together," said Igor Stalsky, creator of ‘A Canterbury Feast’. The clock stands about 15 feet tall and 36 inches square, and is mounted on a cast iron lamppost in the center of the park. It’s Victorian four-sided face has Roman numerals, chimes in conjunction with the chapel and has a lighted face. It is the focal point of the college "quad" that has impressively developed in the back campus.
A TESTIMONIAL FROM ONE OF OUR LOYAL FANS…
Cyndy Schleihauf Patton —WJET-TV’S first woman reporter, now media specialist at St. Vincent Health Center… 5 stars “I have seen ‘A Canterbury Feast’ many, many times over the years....starting at Mercyhurst College, to the Riverside Inn and NOW at the Erie Station Dinner Theatre. This latest performance at the Station was written by Canberbury Feast veteran, David Durst. I have to say, and my table of 11 agreed....this was one of the best we have seen! It was absolutely funny...with a great mixture of current events intertwined into the medieval story line. If you are looking for something to do...if you haven't been to ‘A Canterbury Feast’ for awhile...do yourself a favor and go! it was a fun, fun, funny evening!