An Intimate Dinner Party: TOD Turns Stage Around For 'The Dining Room'

Audience will be seated on stage for bittersweet comedy

 

The lead player in Theatre of Dare’s fall production of A.R. Gurney’s The Dining Room gives a completely wooden performance.

 

But that’s expected, given that it’s a dining room table.

 

All around the table, six actors (Tim Hass, B.J. Keifer, Abigael McGaha, Bert Plante, Katelyn Rea, Daniel Ziegler) each play multiple characters, gliding through a variety of both funny and dramatic scenes. Each scene puts the table at the focal point of changing family life through the generations: family meals, affairs, birthday parties, sibling squabbles, love, heartbreak, and loss. And in this production, the audience will be up close and personal to all of it, sitting around the titular dining room on stage with the actors.

 

Shortly after reading the play, director Jimmie Lee Brooks III decided that The Dining Room called for a more intimate audience experience than a cavernous auditorium could provide. So, he borrowed risers and chairs from The Lost Colony and converted the COA Auditorium stage into a “black box theater” with 81 seats on three sides. Some audience members will be mere inches from the actors at times.

 

“There’s no better way to draw people into this play than by putting them on stage with us,” says Brooks. “This play is so full of beautiful small moments, so intensely personal, that it made perfect sense to make the theatre experience more personal as well.”

 

For the actors involved in the production, it meant re-learning everything they thought they knew about stage directions and blocking. “In every other play, we’re told again and again to always be facing out, to never turn your back on the

audience,” said Hass. “Here, the audience will be on three sides, so the interaction with the other actors becomes the key consideration. I think the audience will really enjoy this unique and memorable experience.”

 

The Dining Room takes the stage November 11, 12, 18, and 19 at 7:30 p.m., with Sunday matinees November 13 and 20 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $11 for adults and $6 for students, and all performances will be held at the COA Auditorium in Manteo. Due to the unique seating configuration, only 81 seats are available for each performance, so audience members are encouraged to purchase tickets for a specific performance date. For tickets and more information, go to www.theatreofdareobx.com.

The cast of Theatre of Dare’s "The Dining Room": (L-R) Abigael McGaha, Daniel Ziegler, Mary Lou Heath, Bert Plante, Tim Hass, and B.J. Keifer (not pictured: Katelyn Rea). The bittersweet comedy opens in the COA Auditorium on November 11.