Arts’ Watch: Tri-County Mystery Meets

Published 1:00 pm Friday, October 6, 2023

By Bill McCann

Columnist

Professional theatres nationwide are shutting down or cutting their seasons by a production or two or three. High school theatre programs are scaling back or being eliminated. And much of this theatrical contraction is due to the effects and aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet—in tiny Barbourville, Kentucky, this year has seen the birth of a new theatre: Tri-County Mystery Meets, a professional dinner theatre featuring good meats, sweet treats and a mystery.

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Tri-County was founded by Cat Rhoden Goguen, a producer, director, and writer. A retired high school drama teacher, Goguen has had several plays published. As a member of the board of directors of the Kentucky Theatre Association, she coordinates the group’s annual Roots of the Bluegrass New Play Contest.

According to Goguen, the group performs in Corbin, Barbourville, London, Williamsburg, and Harlan, with each play being performed at least once in each community at well-regarded local restaurants that assure patrons a delicious meal. Goguen described the dinner show evening as “because the shows are interactive, no two shows are ever exactly alike. But the shows are inclusive, immersive and fun.”

The current play, “The Game of Homes,” was written by Goguen, Michael Radford and Kim Miller. Simply described, Terre and Howard bought their dream home with the one problem being ghosts already occupied it! Who will win the game of homes? Only audience members can decide how this comically spooky story ends!

Saturday’s show is at Heritage Hills in London. Next Saturday, the play will be performed at The Depot on Main in Corbin. Finally, on Oct. 21, The Ugly Mug in Barbourville will host Tri-County Mystery Meets and The Game of Homes. For information about tickets, curtain times, and future shows, visit Event Brite, check out the group’s Facebook page, Tri-County Mystery Meets, or text (606)344-0491.

Incidentally, this is a professional troupe—actors and others involved are paid—based on admissions. Many of the rehearsals are done over Zoom to facilitate more involvement by more actors. The pandemic made Zoom a viable way to rehearse. And attendance at Tri-County Mystery Meets shows, which change every two months, will help make professional dinner theatre possible in eastern Kentucky.

Asked to assess the success of her theatre, Goguen said, “We make all the world a stage,” and audience feedback so far has been great as, after only two shows, we have had several repeat customers. It’s a joy to offer adults a chance to act and be paid. For many it was a dream that ended after high school or college. This opportunity has allowed them to pick up where they left off. And it allows us to offer theatre to those who otherwise would have to travel to Lexington or Louisville for something comparable.”