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Dickens, Good Earth Announce Partnership in New Theatre

Coastal Point

June 17, 2021

Like a fine wine with a great meal, some collaborations just feel right.

When rumors started swirling months ago about a partnership between a beloved local theater and a popular restaurant, the support for the venture quickly became evident.

Now, Rich Bloch of the Dickens Parlour Theatre, formerly located in Millville, and Sue Ryan, owner of Good Earth Market & Restaurant in Clarksville, have formally announced that a new Dickens Theatre will be built adjacent to the Good Earth complex on Route 26.

The 5,000 square-foot building will hold a 98-seat theater and another room that can be used for a variety of gatherings, Bloch told the Coastal Point this week. The building will be of a similar “coastal” style to the existing building, he said.

For comparison, the former theater was 1,000 square feet in all, and the front building where food was often served before performances was 2,100 square feet.

The new theater will be “cabaret” style, with tables where guests can dine while they enjoy the shows, Bloch said. He explained that the new performance space, unlike the old one, will have no curtains or proscenium (the arched area framing the stage).

The effect, he said, will be a more intimate theater experience, with less division between performers and audience.

“It will be kind of a friendly, up-close, embracing type atmosphere,” Bloch said.

Those familiar with the décor in the old theater will find a similar style in the new space, according to Block.

“The décor,” he said, “is just splendid — similar in so far as not modern, more turn-of-the-century” type of décor. “If we could get away with it, we’d put in gas lamps. But we’re not.”

The other room is being referred to as the Great Hall, which Bloch said “is not an overstatement.” With its 14-foot ceiling and heavy use of art, the room will allow for even more intimate performances, due to its openness, while allowing for use from everything from Dickens’ well-known magic shows to musical performances and community gatherings of all sorts.

Over the past 10 years, Bloch said, “We have made our name as a magic-based theater.” He said that families who “plan their summers so they can get in to see a particular performer” will not be disappointed, because “we will be doing that a lot.”

“You dance with the one that brung ya,” Bloch — a professional magician himself — said, but added that Dickens will be broadening its scope beyond the core of magic shows that have brought nationally and internationally known magicians to the Millville spot.

He said Dickens also hopes to host musical events and theater performances, and will be bringing back the lecture series, sponsored by the Coastal Point, that has brought nationally-known speakers and public figures to the Dickens stage.

Although it will be roomy enough to accommodate a crowd, Bloch said the Great Hall will have “the nature of a Victorian library,” with its “old-fashioned, very warm interior.”

“It is going to be a remarkable facility,” Bloch said.

Of the partnership with Good Earth, he said he is thrilled to be working with Ryan and Good Earth chef Nino Mancari.

“He’s just the best. We’re building a state-of-the-art kitchen for him” as part of the new structure, Bloch said.

While most of the public performances will be held in the evenings, Bloch said he and Ryan plan to open the theater to private events, such as weddings and parties, during the day.

“I think it’s going to open a new avenue for people,” he said. “There’s nothing else like it around.”

Good Earth’s Ryan said this week that “the time is now” for the Good Earth/Dickens partnership.

“We feel strongly that long-time local neighbors, and newly arrived retirees and families are looking for high-quality entertainment, cultural events and excellent local food. This is a great combination right here.

“We are so fortunate to have Rich and Sue Bloch’s theater right here on campus. Everything they do is done with joy and excellence. They are a gift to our community,” Ryan said.

Bloch said ground will be broken for the new theater “very soon,” and that he and Ryan hope to be open for their first performers and audiences by the end of the year.


Dickens Parlour Theatre

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See you at Dickens Parlour Theatre!
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