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Highland Theatre to Present The Dining Room

published October 30, 2014

Highland Theatre to Present The Dining Room

Much of family life goes on in dining rooms throughout America.  A. R. Gurney, Jr. catches the stories of some of that family life in his play, The Dining Room, which will be performed by the Highland Community College theatre department.  Performances will be at 7:30 each evening of November 6, 7, and 8 under the direction of Sam Smith in Culbertson Auditorium on the Highland campus.

The play is a comedy of manners, set in a single dining room where 18 scenes from different households overlap and intertwine. Presumably, each story is focused around a different family during different time periods who have in their possession the same dining room furniture set, manufactured in 1898. The stories are about White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) families. Some scenes are about the furniture itself and the emotional attachment to it, while other scenes simply flesh out the culture of the WASPs. Overall, it tells the story of the dying and relatively short-lived culture of upper-middle class Americans, and the transition into a much more efficient society with less emphasis on tradition and more emphasis on progress. Some characters are made fun of, as is the culture itself, but there is also a genuine longing for the sense of stability, comfort, and togetherness that the culture provides.

The dining room of a typical well-to-do household is the place where the family assembled daily for breakfast and dinner and for any and all special occasions. The action is a mosaic of interrelated scenes—some funny, some touching, some rueful—which, taken together, create an in-depth portrait of a vanishing species: the upper-middle-class WASP. The actors change roles, personalities, and ages with virtuoso skill as they portray a wide variety of characters, from little boys to stern grandfathers, and from giggling teenage girls to Irish housemaids. Each vignette introduces a new set of people and events; a father lectures his son on grammar and politics; a boy returns from boarding school to discover his mother's infidelity; a senile grandmother doesn't recognize her own sons at Christmas dinner; a daughter, her marriage a shambles, pleads futilely to return home. Dovetailing swiftly and smoothly, the varied scenes coalesce, ultimately, into a theatrical experience of exceptional range, compassionate humor, and abundant humanity.

In the HCC production, each of the student actors gets the opportunity to play between four to six characters, with a wide range of characters from children to senior citizens.

The cast includes Emily Adcock (Hiawatha), Cheyenne Brown (Horton), Josh Clary (Sabetha), Erin Dolecheck (Highland), Kim Elliott (Highland), Aaron Hayes (Topeka), Colten Norris (Wathena), Austin Ricklefs (Atchison), Krista Wilgers (Palmer), Skyla Wolf (Horton), and Dustin Whetstine (Wathena).  The male understudy is Darrion Johnson (Topeka).

The production staff consists of Stage Manager/Costume Designer Taylor Perez (Lansing); Lighting Design by Lance Erzen of Atchison, who also handles the light board operation; in addition to his acting role, Austin Ricklefs designed the poster; Stephanie Scales (Denton) assists Smith as the Student Director; the Assistant Stage Manager is Amber Skaggs (Highland); Dannie Willis (Kansas City, MO) handles the chores of Construction & Painting Assistant;  the Soundboard Operator & Assistant Light Operator is Lilly Clark of Seneca; and Alyssa Belveal of Nortonville is taking care of House/Publicity/ Tickets. 

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