A Bingo Comedy

The stage has seen many comedies but none too many about bingo. Debuting February 9th at the Dinner Playhouse in Rock Island is entertainment that every bingo fan can appreciate. And why not, bingo is a huge market with a cast of colorful and delightful characters across America.

The Queen of Bingo stars Shane Partlow and Rowan Joseph changing gender to play two sisters, Sis and Babe. They portray to middle aged ladies that love to play bingo. The 1996 play was originally written as one act and preformed for several years. Joseph urged producers to extend it to a two act show.

"We do nothing to wink or nod or any of that stuff. We do it exactly as the characters are written, just very universal," Joseph said in a phone interview with Partlow.

"We never camp the situation, and the same with bingo players. We don't make fun of bingo players. We're bingo players ourselves," Joseph added.

Audience participation is part of the play's entertainment with a game of bingo and a 10 pound turkey given away as a prize to the winner. "We've given away about 20,000 pounds of turkey through the years," Partlow said.

The author wrote the play based on her mother and aunt, later granting the leading men to portray the women in drag.

"It's played very true to the characters," Partlow said. "We're very careful not to make fun of these characters, we embrace the characters.

"Over the years, people have come up to us and said, 'I had no idea you guys were men until you pulled your wigs off,'" Partlow added.

"It brings up all this nostalgia for people. People just want to come up and hug these characters at the end of the show."

According to Joseph bingo draws larger crowds then many sporting events including Major League Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, NASCAR and horseracing.

"Hollywood through the years has done billions and billions of dollars (in business), but they don't make as much as is made in bingo in the United States," he added.

But bingo players knew this all along. The game of bingo is a social pastime that has been passed down from one generation to the next and over the years has built a huge bingo community of players.

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