Westchester’s Showtime Dinner Group begins branching out to more activities this weekend

By Michael Aushenker

In his book “Bowling Alone,” author Robert Putnam laments the decline of American membership in clubs and other community organizations that bring neighbors together.  He should meet Westchester’s Adrienne Pender, an Ohio native who is expanding the activities of her Showtime Dinner Group.

The monthly theater-going club is thinking out of the community theater box for a Saturday trip to Derrick’s Jamaican Restaurant — the first time the group is heading out to somewhere other than a community theater, leaving a little more room for members to mingle.

With Dodgers and Clippers outings in the works, it won’t be the last time, she said.

The club’s entertainment this weekend is magician Monty Julian, who has performed at the Magic Castle and will be whipping up illusions while a harpist provides the musical backdrop.

“We seem to [attract] people in the arts,” Pender said. “When we go to restaurants, we’re going to bring our entertainment with us.”

Pender came to Los Angeles decades ago with an interest in foreign cultures. So she formed PICAS (Participants International Cultural Activity Singles), an informal social group which The Argonaut’s founding editor, David Asper Johnson, helped boost.

After 45 years, Pender felt PICAS had run its course and disbanded it two years ago. But a year later she put her social organizer hat back on to start the Showtime Dinner Group.

Last month the group caught “A Picasso” at the Santa Monica Playhouse, and past expeditions have included the Ruskin Group Theatre at Santa Monica Airport, the Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice, the Actor’s Gang in Culver City and the Kentwood Players at their home community playhouse.

One of the more memorable plays Showtime members have caught unfurled in the Valley in the company of livestock.

“We were literally on a farm in a barn with donkeys and chickens,” she recalled with a chuckle.

With monthly attendance hovering at about 25 people, Pender would like to see her intimate club grow.

“I enjoy the creativity of it— being able to look at the paper and see what is playing that’s interesting and going with it,” she said. “It’s exciting to see other people open up to new ideas.”

Showtime Dinner Group meets at 7 p.m. Saturday at Derrick’s Jamaican Restaurant, 6806 La Tijera Blvd., Westchester. Call (310) 215-1892 to RSVP or visit showtimedinnergroup.com.