The day Joan Becker decided she had to hire a caterer was the day she was getting dinner ready for 20 people, playing the piano and acting in a dinner theater performance – all at the same time.
“And then I was late for a scene because I was helping the servers with something,” Becker said with a laugh. “He dimmed the lights and nothing happened. That’s when we decided something had to change.”
She runs The Lion’s Share with her husband, Jim Becker, and the company is putting the final touches on its Valentine’s Day dinner theater production: “The Heart of Jimmy Valentine.”
Jim Becker has written the play, which is loosely based on an O. Henry short story.
“It’s a love story, of course,” said Jim Becker, who couldn’t remember the title of the original story that so inspired him.
The play is about a small-town crook named Jimmy Valentine who returns to safe-cracking as soon as he’s released from jail. Hot on his trail is detective Ben Price, but before Valentine is returned to the slammer he runs into the banker’s gorgeous daughter.
“Jimmy is smitten, and then a little girl gets trapped inside a safe,” said Jim Becker, “and the question becomes if the bad guy will do something good.”
The Lion’s Share is located in a Victorian home on North Atlantic Street, just north of Mission Avenue. The Beckers held their first dinner theater performance there on Valentine’s Day in 2009.
The small house is beautifully decorated and provides an intimate setting for 30 dinner guests.
Joan Becker said they’ve never been able to actually cook dinner in the small kitchen.
“We used to make everything in a commercial kitchen and then bring it over here,” she said, adding that she’s more than happy to leave that part to Catered for You. “It was just too much.”
Volunteer servers wait on diners at the Lion’s Share Dinner Theatre, and everyone makes sure guests have plenty of time to eat.
“We do a scene, then you eat a course, then we do another scene, then you eat a course,” Joan Becker said.
The Lion’s Share often produces shows at Halloween and Christmas. Every production is written or adapted by the Beckers, and in the summer the couple host a theater camp for fifth- and sixth-graders.
“We were doing all sorts of celebrations and anniversaries here. Theater camp seemed like a natural fit,” said Joan Becker.
The Beckers both teach at Spokane Falls Community College, and that’s where they recruit most of their actors.
“We love to showcase new talent and new faces,” Jim Becker said.
Joan Becker grew up in Spokane and met Jim Becker at the University of Washington, where they were both finishing doctorates in communication. They lived and worked in Fresno, Calif., until he retired from the Roosevelt School District there in 2006.
“We were looking to relocate but by then we had a costume shop, too,” Joan Becker said.
They decided to move to Spokane and buy a home here, and then friends helped them find a suitable house for The Lion’s Share and the costume shop.
“We have 3,000 square feet full of costumes in a building we added to the back of the house,” said Joan Becker. “So, yes, we do a lot of different things here – it’s great.”