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CCAC to host ‘Romeo and Juliet’ dinner for Valentine’s Day

The scene at the Charles City Art Center's Play it again Sam event last year. The event included dinner and a showing of the Academy Award-winning film "Casablanca." The theme this year is “Romeo and Juliet.” (Press file photo.)
The scene at the Charles City Art Center’s Play it again Sam event last year. The event included dinner and a showing of the Academy Award-winning film “Casablanca.” The theme this year is “Romeo and Juliet.” (Press file photo.)
By James Grob,

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene …

Well, actually, the scene will be right here in Charles City.

It will be a Valentine’s Day, “Romeo and Juliet” dinner on Friday, Feb. 15 — the day after Valentine’s Day — at the Charles City Arts Center.

Local culinary artist Stewart Dalton will put together an Italian-themed ensemble of food, there will be Renaissance music, and high school speech students will be doing scenes and speeches from William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

“It’s for Valentine’s Day,” said CCAC Director Jacqueline Davidson. “Last year, when we did Casablanca, I was told we should have done it for Valentine’s Day, and the more I thought about it, the more I thought, maybe so.”

A year ago, the event was called “Play it Again, Sam,” and the dinner was French Moroccan, a nod to the classic movie “Casablanca” — starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. More than 40 people showed up at the CCAC to enjoy the food, sparkling wine and entertainment centered on the many plot lines in the movie.

This year, Charles City High School speech director Mike Lembke will be bringing students in to perform parts of “Romeo and Juliet” and other Shakespeare plays. The actors will dress the parts, and Davidson said that whoever decides to attend is also encouraged to dress in medieval period clothing or Renaissance-themed attire if they wish.

“That would be fabulous,” she said. “We’re real excited.”

The guest artist at the CCAC in February will Autumn Rozario Hall, and Davidson said that Hall’s artwork will help complete the scene.

“The art that Autumn will have on display is fantasy stuff, so that will fit right in,” she said. “The whole place is going to be decorated appropriately because of that.”

Dalton, the chef, has lived in Charles City for more than 25 years, but once worked in a number of upscale supper clubs in Wisconsin and Illinois. He studied the culinary arts in Madison, Wisconsin, and learned the finer details of gourmet cooking. He also grew up in a “family of good cooks.”

“They weren’t professionals, but family reunions were culinary feasts,” Dalton said.

He said the menu will include chicken risotto and Pasta Bologna.

“Not bologna, as in the meat, but Bologna — as in the city in Northern Italy,” said Dalton, who added that he will also make a Zuppa — which is an Italian soup.

“It’s a potato, sausage and spinach, creamy soup — which is very good,” he said.

Breadsticks will be available, and Dalton said he was mulling over what type of Italian dessert he was going to make.

It’s the kind of fine dining you don’t see everyday in Charles City.

“Having a Valentine’s meal is going to help the people who don’t want to drive far,” Davidson said. “It’s an opportunity to take your wife or girlfriend out and have a nice dinner and a good time.”

The dinner will cost $35 per person, and Davidson said she expects the night to begin at about 5 p.m. All proceeds will go to the CCAC, and reservations can be made by calling 641-228-6284 or 319-830-4984.

“Please, call in advance, because we do have to buy the food,” Davidson said. “You don’t have to pay in advance, but we really appreciate it if you could make a reservation.”