Inland Valley Repertory Theatre [for] now at Eddie’s

by Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com

Last Tuesday evening at Eddie’s Italian Eatery seemed to be business as usual. At the front end, the restaurant was seating its normal flow of hungry guests for dinner, while in the back party area, about 50 people were packed in for a dinner theater experience, courtesy of the Inland Valley Repertory Theatre.

Guests witnessed IVRT’s latest 2022 season performance, “Our Lady of the Tortilla,” a comedy about a dysfunctional family who at first can’t seem to get along due to their own personal reasons. The play featured Candida Celaya as Dolores Cantu, Jordan Arana as Nelson Cruz, Fernanda Cabarcos as Dahlia Cruz, Sierra Breese as Beverly Barnes, and Abel Miramontes as Eddy Cruz.

It was a fun evening and great performance by the cast, who received a loud ovation from the room as they took their final bow.

IVRT’s founders, Frank and Donna Marie Minano, have spearheaded IVRT since its inception in 1990. When the couple began planning this year’s supper club series, formerly the readers theater series prior to COVID-19, they remembered they had “Our Lady of the Tortilla” on the back burner and decided to put it into this year’s performance lineup.

“It just seemed like a great time right now, with being able to bring people back to the theater. And then bring them into a new way of doing theater,” Donna Marie said. “We had the whole new way of doing theater with Zoom during COVID. And now this is a new way of experiencing theater as a story being told from a very specific family’s perspective.”

While the group of five IVRT actors seemed at home on the makeshift stage they brought with them last week, the downsized space was a far cry from the vast stage once provided to them at Candlelight Pavilion.

Over the last 15 years, IVRT has presented hundreds of productions at Candlelight, which recently shut its doors. With such a big loss, would the theater group be leaving sometime soon to set up shop elsewhere?

“We actually have two committees right now, a venue committee and an infrastructure committee, to really look at who are we, going forward. Where is what we do going to serve the most people?” Donna Marie said. “It really has become kind of, where is IVRT going? We’re asking those big questions right now, to see what our next stuff is supposed to be.”

“I think the main, ‘What’s next?’ Is that we are really transitioning into what is going to be next. And there are a lot of question marks right now,” she added. “Let’s put it this way, we’re open to the Holy Spirit.”

“It’s been wonderful to be here [in Claremont]. But again, it’s Inland Valley [Repertory Theater], so if where we will be, could be anywhere between the 57 and the 15 [freeways]. In that kind of greater community,” Frank said.

For now, the theater group has found themselves in Eddie’s back room, atop a makeshift stage and props IVRT brings.

“It’s not our new 24/7 home. It’s been our home for eight years … we’re going to continue having it as our second home,” Donna Marie said. “When we were at Candlelight, we would go in, and up-cycle their sets. They had a set on stage already. Here we kind of created our own stage out of nothing. And kind of just up-cycle the space to turn it into a place to see a story being told.”

Since 2008, when the cast stopped in for food between productions, Eddie’s has been a place IVRT calls home, and one day the theater group’s founders decided to give back to the restaurant. They suggested they could host a dinner theater experience after seeing the back room. It’s been a weekly experience the group and Eddie’s have been putting on ever since.

Despite the loss of Candlelight, the team continues to bring their A game to Eddie’s and other venues where they have scheduled performances, and audiences continue to flock wherever IVRT performs.

“The attendance so far has been two out of two, sold out for the one,” Frank said after Tuesday’s performance.

IVRT’s next show, “I’m Not Rappaport,” will be held at Eddie’s Italian Eatery, 1065 W. Foothill Boulevard, starting May 22. For more information about the musical or to purchase tickets for the dinner theater, which begin at $55, visit https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?ticketing=ivrt&pr=1

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