Mid-Prairie has presented a madrigal dinner for 27 years in a row — director and vocal music teacher Collette McClellen performed in the first annual madrigal dinner in 1993, so she’s seen her fair share of performances.
2020’s dinner, however, was different for obvious reasons.
Tables were spaced further apart, guests squirted sanitizer on their hands before dining, and all of the students wore masks throughout the entire performance, except while eating.
Many of the students even had special masks made specifically for singing; they are much larger and stiffer than most masks, giving the singers more room to breathe behind their mask and stopping them from sucking fabric into their mouths when they take deep breaths. Every performer on the royal court wore a specialized mask and several other singers donned them, as well.
Other aspects of dinner, however, went as they always have: the audience enjoyed a five-course meal by candelight, catered by Ila Miller of Hearth-in-Home catering, spectators enjoyed throwing coins down on the floor for the beggars to swarm over and everyone was treated to many songs by the talented Mid-Prairie choir.
The jester, played by Terra Richardson, served as the evening’s MC, flawlessly integrating the play with the musical numbers. The play featured the king, played by Kelby Gingerich, and queen, played by Kyra Helmuth, as they attempted to marry their daughter Princess Prunella (Avery Slaubaugh), who had been turned down by six previous suitors.
In order to hide her plain appearance from the latest suitor, the king and queen decide to switch Princess Prunella with her handmaiden Fawn (Zoe Fisher) during the veiled courtship. But Prince Bob (Chris Burnham) is nervous and decides to secretly switch places with his squire, Orlando (Haydon Bailey). While Fawn and Orlando are off on their two-hour courtship, Prince Bob and Princess Prunella meet for real, reveal their faces, fall in love and the play ends with their happy marriage.
In addition to the play, guests were treated to 15 musical numbers, including a beautiful set of six songs performed by the royal court toward the end of the evening.
Members of the royal court included Gingerich, Helmuth, Ethan Bontrager, Alexander Burnham, Olivia Caskey, Grace Conway, Gavin Frascht, Emil Harmston, Sam Harris, Myah Lugar, Emily Marner, Elizabeth Meader, Kaden Meader, Elizabeth Sansen, Phoebe Shetler, Thaddeus Shetler and Cooper Thomas.
It was a pleasant evening where diners were encouraged to wave their napkins around in approval or disapproval of the play — many cheeky audience members played along with the jester by booing her corny jokes. Spectators sipped their wassail (apple cider) throughout the evening, in-between the courses of a cheese plate; soup; salad; pork loin with potatoes, vegetables and rolls; and desert of assorted kinds of pie.
Spectators were encouraged to keep their masks on between courses and whenever not actively eating or drinking.
Director McClellen said the performances, although different than any madrigal dinner Mid-Prairie has ever presented, were extremely successful.