March 08, 2016

Touch of Nature to host dinner theater

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Tickets are now available for the spring performances at The Gathering Place Off Broadway, a dinner theater experience at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center. 

The theater is oft’ billed as “A little slice of Branson in Southern Illinois” and it combines refreshments and/or a catered meal and drinks, depending upon the time of day, with family entertainment. It takes place at the Friends Room at Touch of Nature, located about eight miles south of Carbondale on Giant City Road. 

There will be two performances of the Patty Waszak Variety Show in April. The April 7 matinee is from 1 to 2:30 p.m. while the April 8 dinner show is set for 6:30 to 9 p.m. Waszak, a vocalist with expertise on more than 30 musical instruments, will perform a variety of music genres from big band favorites and polkas to 50s and 60s rock ’n’ roll, from country to show tunes. Comedy, sing-a-longs and music trivia are also featured and audience participation is welcomed. Waszak’s show is a longtime crowd favorite at the Country Tonite Theater in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. 

The matinee session of the popular Sunday Drive Variety Show is already sold out but tickets are still available for the May 13 evening dinner theater. The award-winning group from Knoxville, Tenn., will perform favorite songs from the era spanning the 1950s through the 1970s along with gospel and patriotic tunes, a selection of music from The Carpenters and add plenty of hilarity. They have won more than 20 entertainer and vocal group awards, including the Inspirational Country Music Vocal Group of the Year award, and have performed at the Grand Ole Opry and on national television. 

Tickets for the Patty Waszak matinee, featuring dessert, coffee or tea served with the show, are $25 each. 

The doors open at 6 p.m. for the evening shows with dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the show starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets include dinner, dessert, coffee and the performance. General admission is $40 while VIP seating is $45. Groups of 25 or more people receive a 10 percent discount on tickets. Alcoholic beverages are available for purchase. 

Seating is limited and ticket sales are in advance only for the evening performances. Tickets will be sold at the door for the April 7 matinee but seating is limited. To buy tickets, or for more information, visit the website at or call 618/965-3726 or 618/967-9926.