How to Plan a Madrigal Dinner

Setting the Table-Stage

Hosting a madrigal dinner centered on the religious themes of Christmas will be different than staging one where music or comedy are central. Whether in a church basement, banquet space, school dining hall or civic center, though, creating an atmosphere for the food and action is about the same.

D├ęcor can include any or all of the following:

  • lush, velvety fabric in royal colors or Christmas reds and greens for draping tables or changing the look of walls
  • long tables for group dining, with a head table in the front of the room or raised on a platform or stage
  • dinnerware pieces such as heavy goblets and pitchers or huge bowls for serving food and beverages
  • low lighting or candle lighting to convey the atmosphere of the darker Renaissance style rooms
  • period costumes for the actors, servers and musicians, and invitations encouraging audience members to come in costume as well; browns for peasants and rich purples and greens for the gentry; long dresses for maids and maidens, shorter pants for men, and hats and crowns for jesters, king and queen all set the stage for role playing

If putting on a full stage play or masked drama, or masque, set designs of castle walls, outdoor scenes or inner chambers can be built up for the performance or borrowed from a drama department at a local school. Many churches will have nativity costumes or sets adaptable for telling the Christmas story within a madrigal dinner, and party rental companies or stores can be sources for tableware. Borrowing large bowls or goblets from caterers or even individuals planning the dinner is an option for saving on the dinner portion of the sets.