An Empty Plate in the Cafe du Grand Boeuf – the Director’s Wrap-up

In a word, this production was “perfection!” All of the run was great and then here it was — the final performance — and, it was rock solid. We had the most amazing party at Jim and Karen Halliday’s home (the incredible hosting prowess of these two is formidable)! Martha Halliday (our unofficial understudy) was there in her favorite jersey. Kathleen Buck and I were spoilt by the cast with flower baskets. But, it was watching perfect performances of timing, pace, pathos, comedy and sketchy blocking (from me) that rocked my world. This extraordinary convergence of people made for the right show — in the right space — at the right time. Nancy Savonick and Steve Lund brought the poisonous dessert every evening…made fresh to order. The cast was flawless – Jaime Speelman-Flatters, Nate Travers, Gerry Birnbach, Jeff Sargent, Karen Halliday, James C Halliday were the hardest working people in show biz…I thank you — all you James Brownses!

martha hallidayAnd then there’s Jim’s mom, Martha Halliday. She came to every rehearsal, knew all the lines and had spot-on commentary. She honestly could have stood in for anyone who may have been out ill. What a pleasure to make a new friend in her. She is so young at 97. She inspires me to live a long and happy life full of family, joy, good health and culture!

All and all, one of the finest productions and teams I have ever had the pleasure to direct!

Notes from the Director About “Empty Plate”

When I read Empty Plate, I was hooked right away.  It seemed only fitting that a play about exquisite food be presented at the epicenter of the culinary universe (loca-vores galore), Oregon.  As exquisite a play as it is, we had a scary week or two in October/November 2013 when we learned we had to scuttle our planned January production and start a fresh search for our January show.  Really….start from scratch at such a late date?  Finding a new script and getting the casting for a new show within two weeks is a daunting task!  But, when Carr presented the board with the Empty Plate script we were all smitten.  By late November we voted to do it and luckily we were able to cast it so voila — we were off and running.  Well, not running that fast… those darned holidays got in the way posing a huge obstacle to our rehearsal schedules. We couldn’t get together as a cast for weeks and a member of two became pretty sick…  It was touch and go.  Would we make it, skating on such thin ice?

Well, this hearty, intrepid crew worked hard those 4 weeks.  Without ever getting a chance to rehearse in person they had all of their lines memorized.  Having that prep work done proved to be a brilliant strategy because we got down to brass tacks at the first rehearsal. In other words, we actually did hit the ground running!  We have had a whale of a good time discovering the blocking, jokes, humor, pathos and heart of Empty Plate — even at a breakneck pace.  We hope you enjoy your evening as much as we enjoyed preparing it for you!

Meet the Cast of “Empty Plate” – Nate Travers

Nate is a long time Newberg resident who enjoys his work as a graphic designer and screenprinter at Rendered, LLC. He spends his free time helping with local community events such as Newberg’s Oktoberfest and Tunes on Tuesday. Nate is also on the board of directors for the Chehalem Players Repertory.

Victor's-Next-PlateNate is excited to be back on the stage with CPR. He debuted on the CPR stage in the 2013 production Betrayal, coincidentally playing a waiter, which he plays in “Empty Plate.” Here he is, as Antoine the waiter-in-training, holding the serving tray as Claude (played by Jeff Sargent) serves an empty plate to Victor.

Meet the Cast of “Empty Plate” – Jaime Flatters

Jaime Flatters is a life long Oregonian. She moved to the Newberg area with her husband Michael 4 years ago. Jaime has participated in many theater productions both on stage and behind the scenes.

Victor & Mimi dancing in the Cafe du Grand BoeufJaime’s love of the theater was reignited by Chehalem Players Rep co-founders, Donna and Kym who are regulars of Subterra Restaurant where Jaime works. Jaime overheard them talking shop, expressed an interest, auditioned and voila! Here she is!  Jaime plays Mimi, a waitress at the Café du Grand Boeuf and wife of Claude, the headwaiter.

When not on stage Jaime can be found most evenings at Subterra Restaurant talking wine and serving the patron fabulous food.

Meet the Cast of “Empty Plate” – Karen Halliday

Karen received her BA degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara and her Masters Degree from Purdue University. She spent 35 years as an educator. She was a special education teacher and administrator in elementary school and high school. She spent 32 years working in higher education including six years when she served as Dean of Student Services in the Chancellor’s Office of California Community Colleges. From 2002 until she retired in July 2007, she was the President of Las Positas Community College in California. Karen was selected as the Teacher of the Year for Foothill-DeAnza Community College District in 1987, East Bay Educator of the Year in 2005, and designated as one of the Ten Most Influential Women in the Bay Area in 2006.

Victor-and-MuseAfter her retirement, Karen and her husband Jim moved to Newberg, OR. In addition to her work with Willamette Shakespeare, where she is currently on the board, she serves as President of the Chehalem Cultural Center Board. Karen is making her acting debut in “Empty Plate.” She plays Louise, Victor’s muse and love interest.

Meet the Cast – Jim Halliday

Jim has Theatre Arts Degrees from Foothill College and Cal State University, San Jose. He worked for several years as a media designer at DeAnza College in the early 70s where he met his wife, Karen. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, as a direct result of his audio soundtracks and media work, Jim became heavily involved in working with blind people. In 1988, Jim co-founded and became CEO of HumanWare (, a company that designs and distributes technology for people who are blind, visually and/or print impaired.

Jim and Karen moved their permanent residence to Oregon in 2007 and now enjoy full retirement at their small Pinot Noir vineyard on Ribbon Ridge. Jim helped with the early development of Willamette Shakespeare and is currently President of the Board.

Jim Halliday as Victor Jim played Mr. Rice in the Chehalem Players production of Molly Sweeney in 2012. Jim is delighted to be back in this production and with this cast! He plays Victor, the owner and sole patron of the Café du Grand Boeuf.


Meet the Cast – Jeff Sargent

Jeff Sargent is returning to the stage in Newberg in the role of Claude in CPR’s production of Empty Plate in the Cafe du Grand Boeuf. He last appeared as Elwood Dowd in Valley Repertory’s production of Harvey in 2012.

If you are a “valley” theater-goer, Jeff’s talent are apparent. Jeff is a board member of the Gallery Theater in McMinnville and has been featured in several shows including The 39 Steps,  On Golden Pond, Don’t Dress for Dinner, and Greater Tuna. Jeff’s talented wife, Julia, also performs. She is currently cast as Maggie in the Gallery Theater’s Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.

When not at the theater Jeff and Julia can often be found in the garden or in a nearby restaurant or wine bar.

Meet the Cast – Gerry Birnbach

This is Gerry’s third production with CPR. He was in The Christmas Show in our first season, played Robert in Betrayal (alongside Nate Travers) in our second season, and plays Gaston, the Chef, in Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf this season.

Although Gerry cannot cook (or even use a microwave), he is very excited to be playing Gaston because he fell in love with restaurants when his parents took him to the London Grill in Portland for his eighth birthday.