Dinner theatre to feature comedy spotlighting actors

PLAINVIEW - Student actors at Wayland Baptist University will get a challenging experience during the upcoming production of The Dining Room by the university theatre department, slated Feb. 27, 28 and March 1.

The comedy by A.R. Gurney features only eight cast members, but those eight will fill nearly 60 different character roles. According to Dr. Marti Runnels, director of theatre, the end result is a hilarious experience for audiences and great training for actors.

"One thing actors learn is transition. In one scene, they are working to fill a need and then something happens and they have to transition to another need," Runnels explained, adding that. "This work is more like transformation, where the change is immediate and total."

Runnels said while actors sometimes fill different roles within a production, they are typically allowed to leave and reenter the set or even change costumes in order to transform. But The Dining Room doesn't really allow for that, and as Runnels puts it, "sometimes actors just look away and look back and they're someone else."

The premise of the play is an examination of family dynamics seen through experiences in the dining room of a well-to-do household. The play spans different generations and families, however, presenting varied views of Gurney's traditional subject: the upper-middle-class white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant.

"There's a sense that all these different families are passing through this one room, in and out of time," Runnels said.

An interesting note by Runnels is that Gurney is one of the few playwrights he has directed more than once. Wayland's theatre department presented Sylvia a few years back. The Plainview Civic Theatre also presented Gurney's Love Letters last year.

Cast members for The Dining Room include Chris Moore, Billy Boone, Brandon Campanella, Richard Conner, Jennifer Riley, Milea Simpson, Desi Pharis and Jennifer Parrish.

The show is the department's annual dinner theatre production. An Italian dinner catered by The Olive Garden will be served at 7 p.m. in Harral Auditorium, with the play following at 8 p.m. in Harral Studio Theatre. The menu consists of lasagna, salad and breadsticks, tiramisu or white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, coffee and tea.

Tickets are $18 per person for the dinner theatre, and reservations must be received and paid by Feb. 26 to guarantee seats. Reservations can be made by phone using a Mastercard or Visa by calling the Box Office at 291-1089. Reservation requests and payment by check can also be sent to the University Theatre at 1900 West 7 th St., Plainview, Texas 79072.

Tickets for the show only are $8 for adults and $4 for students college age and younger. Theatre visitors bringing a grocery bag of canned food for Faith in Sharing House will receive a $2 discount off one ticket.

For more information, contact the theatre box office at 291-1089.