Shant’e and Kevin Ragin have brought their love for theater and time-honored cuisine to Porterdale, bolstering Newton County’s entertainment options in the process.

by Michelle Floyd

Shant’e Ragin could not imagine her life any other way than on the stage.

“I’ve been in theater my whole life,” said Ragin, a Chicago native who has lived in Georgia since she was 18. “There was never a time I can remember not being in a show or writing a show.”

She started talking at an early age and began acting in Easter and other Christian plays at church. “They would give me parts before I could talk. My grandmother said that I had my first speech at a church play,” said Ragin, who was directing the choir by the time she was 6. “This is something that has been going on my whole life.” She went on to act in school plays and earned a degree in communications and cultural studies. 

(l to r) Ladonna Pacer, Bill Pacer and Shant’e Ragin

After moving to Georgia, Ragin met her husband, Kevin, a veteran from Pittsburgh who cooked and provided comic relief for the family. The Ragins have now founded a company that offers them the best of both worlds, opening the Dramatic Arts Production Community Theater, Drama Club and Educational Resource Center in downtown Porterdale. The venue specializes in dinner theater shows.

“We like to eat while we’re doing what we’re doing,” Ragin said. “We didn’t know it was a thing, so we thought, ‘While we’re doing the show, why don’t we serve dinner, too?’”

“We like to eat while we’re doing what we’re doing. We didn’t know it was a thing, so we thought, ‘While we’re doing the show, why don’t we serve dinner, too?”

Shant’e Ragin

The couple started by writing scenarios for marriage retreats and church products, then opened the theater at Morgan Plaza in Covington in 2008. Performances there ran until they neared their move to Porterdale in October 2021. The Ragins also wrote a history tour for the city of Porterdale before relocating to their newly renovated location. They started out in their own theater company hosting children’s shows like “The Wizard of Oz” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” for their kids: Marshonna Gunn-Ragin, 24, Jada Ragin, 23, and MI’Angel Ragin, 19. 

“They have all been in shows in one way or another,” said Ragin, who has lived with her family in Newton County since 2008 and in Porterdale since 2018.

Past productions at the theater include “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Scrooge – A Christmas Story” and various murder mystery and comedy acts, plus 1940s-style gangster shows the Ragins have written, produced, directed and starred in themselves, alongside other local and professional actors. Ragin concedes they are known for classics and mysteries, but she does not want their theater to be pigeonholed and plans to offer more variety using different playwrights and actors.

(l to r) Shamar Gunn, Bill Pacer, Bradley Johnston and Ladonna Pacer

“The whole family can come out as a unit with all ages and have a really good night out,” said LaDonna Pacer, who, along with husband Bill, has acted in several DAP productions when not performing in other professional shows around the country. “It’s a relaxing atmosphere. This is where we like to come back to. It’s entertainment for Porterdale that they didn’t have.”

Eventually, the venue could feature dinner shows every weekend and perhaps even four nights a week or more. For now, it offers shows a couple of times a month and remains open for dinner even when productions are not scheduled.

“Porterdale has become a center for creativity,” Porterdale Mayor Arline Chapman said. “Shant’e and Kevin Ragin have brought their outstanding creative theatrical talents to the mix—quality fun and creative dinner theater right here in Newton County.”

The Ragins—with Kevin’s recipes and his wife’s help in the kitchen—offer mainly soul food, like chicken, pork chops, Salisbury steak, collards, macaroni and cheese and cornbread, among other favorites at shows and during regular operations Thursdays through Sundays. “We started off with burgers, hot dogs and salads,” Ragin said. “Kevin has been the cook of the family his whole life. We work together and cook some pretty good meals.” They ultimately made the decision to expand their menu, and it has been well received. “It’s incredible food; it’s fabulous,” Pacer said. “I even come there to eat when I’m not working.” The atmosphere created by the Ragins has also become a selling point, according to Bill Pacer: “They feel like family.” 

The theater has partnered with schools in the past for classic shows and anti-bullying efforts, and Ragin hopes to do so again soon: “We want to be known as a thing to do in town.” 

For more information, visit www.dinnerclubshow.com or call 404-777-4349. The location, which has been used in the Netflix show “Sweet Magnolias,” is available for event rental for a variety of functions, including professional theater and film acting classes.

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