Cambrian: Opinion

Looking for something to do in Cambria? Come out to a ‘Dinnertainment’ production

Cast members Josh Gamble and Tony Costa in CCAT’s latest production of “Dinnertainment.”
Cast members Josh Gamble and Tony Costa in CCAT’s latest production of “Dinnertainment.” Courtesy photo

I’m so dang lucky. I have met and know some of the nicest and coolest people in this town!

I got to have tea and a chat with stand-up comedienne, actress and director Jill Turnbow recently. Turnbow had her own theater group for a bit once she moved to Cambria, Houselights Theater, and then was in professional cohorts with the late Nancy Green, the Technical Director for Cambria’s Center for the Arts Theatre (CCAT) productions. After Green’s death this past summer, Turnbow took over both her position as well as her own spot as artistic director.

Is it the increase in workload that weighs on Turnbow’s shoulders? “No,” she confided, “it’s the fact that people still don’t know we are here after 10 years at the old Cambria Grammar School building! Inevitably when I ask an audience lately, ‘how many of you are here for the first time? Raise your hand.’ Most of the crowd does! I really just want people to know about the great productions we put on, right here in their own backyard.”

Really, it’s in our front yard at 1350 Main St!

“People consider the Pewter Plough as the lost source of stage productions in Cambria, but we’ve been here all along and still are. And, we’ve made some really helpful changes in the Allied Arts organization (the auspices under which the theater operates). We’ve broken business into three separate divisions: Theater, Film and Gallery. It keeps managing it all much simpler. I’ve got a bigger team to help me. Many people will also be happy to know productions will be starting earlier in the evening: 7:30 on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 on Sundays.”

I know I’ve personally heard, “it’s hard to go out later at night after I feel like I’m all hunkered down.” Or maybe it’s just me that says that…

I asked Turnbow how she comes up with productions: “I choose by virtue of a steering committee. If I’m too far out there, they steer me back to acceptable!”

Currently, however, Turnbow is extremely excited about their upcoming performance. It’s a world premier of an original work by Erik Stein, who has operated out of PCPA in Santa Maria for some time but has credits on Broadway and Off-Broadway. “Dinnertainment” will run Nov. 30-Dec. 23 at the Old Grammar School.

Turnbow got a little giggly when she was telling me, “I am a really big Erik Stein fan, but, HE sought ME out to debut it! What an incredible honor! I mean, WOW! And, it is one of the funniest plays I’ve read in years. When Erik was asked why he chose to premier his work at CCAT, he said he’d always felt like Cambria was a good luck charm. He was staying here the night he got a call-back to PCPA when he was just 17 years old. So, when he thought about where he wanted to debut his play, he thought Cambria was ideal. ‘Besides,’ he said, ‘that’s where Jill Turnbow is and I thought she would be perfect for it.’ Wow!”

“Dinnertainment” is a farce relating to the years Stein spent in mid-western dinner theater – to the extreme. With “five original soon-to-be classic holiday tunes” written by Paul Marszalkowski. It’s not really a musical… remember, it’s a play about… plays. Directed by Lisa Woske, the cast includes Turnbow, Tony Costa (Coast Unified alum), Danielle McNamara, Jo Jackson, Garrett Larsen, Tara Brinkman and Josh Gamble. Shirley Kirks-Mar does choreography for the dance numbers.

And that’s not all CCAT is up to. Turnobow is set to teach beginning acting classes come January-February. There is also the Reader’s Theater (minimal staging, actors on script, kind of like having a great story read to you) that she finds is a great way for actors to work out parts and to cover pieces that may be too edgy for this theater.

“I also want to encourage more locals to start coming out to audition!” she said.

On the bill for 2019 at the CCAT are “Sunshine Boys” starting March 8, “Quilters” in July-August (how the west was discovered through women and their quilts) and the perennial favorite, “Harvey” in November.

So much going on, right there at the old Grammar School on Main St. Tickets for “Dinnertainment” are available at and at the CCAT box office. Just $25 will get you a great night or afternoon of quality entertainment. When she’s not selling real estate or performing or directing down at the SLO Repertory Theater or CCAT or serving wine at Stolo’s, Turnbow is happy to have you contact her at or call her at 805-909-2005.

Hmm, maybe I’ll have to consider reviving my old role as Myrtle in “Harvey….” it’s only been, oh, 34 years…

Dianne Brooke’s column is special to The Cambrian.