Thesis production captures life at the dining room table

edited.TheDiningRoom1By Katy Shenk

Student Life Editor

Drawing inspiration from the Thanksgiving season, Katie Peacock’s senior thesis production, “The Dining Room,” performed on Nov. 16 and 17, featured aspects of traditionally W.A.S.P.-ish family life that occur around the dining room table.

Instead of focusing on one family, the play contained 18 vignettes with 57 different characters played by the same central cast of seven actors and actresses.

Although the dining room table took center stage for the entire production, the show focused on the characters’ motivations, relationships, and more often than not, dysfunctional relationships.

“It’s a play centered around the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture but I believe [it] speaks to audiences no matter their experiences,” Peacock said in her director’s note.

Peacock first read “The Dining Room” by A.R. Gurney in middle school, and returned to the show years later for her directing thesis.

“Directing is a really unique opportunity for a school to have. Also stepping into senior year directing was a way for me to kind of take in everything I have learned at Washington College and apply it to one project,” she said.

Tawes Theatre was arranged “in the round” for the production, so the audience could view the action from all four sides of the stage. In multiple instances, the various vignettes overlapped to transition between scenes.

“The overall message of the show is that underneath the ‘perfect’ stereotypical image of a rich white family of the twentieth century there are predictable flaws and conflicts among family members,” said freshman Katherine Derosiers, who played Sally, Ellie, Dora, and Old Lady, among other roles.

These conflicts often took the form of tension between the values of different generations, acted out by grandparents, parents and children.

“My favorite line is in Vignette 9 when the grandfather says, ‘Which one are you?’ to his grandson in a gravelly voice; it gets a lot of laughs,” Derosiers said.

While the dining room table was the place for joyous moments such as birthday parties and dinner gatherings, it also saw families experience confrontation and tragedy.

In one such moment, a father asks his son, Dick, to take notes while describing the logistics of his own funeral.

Peacock described the challenges and rewards of directing a production, both of which centered around the people involved.

“The sticky stuff like schedules, people getting sick, and properly planning out how much we have to rehearse by this time is all the things that make this job difficult. What is really rewarding about it is when you have a project you’re proud of it isn’t about the lines, the blocking, or the designs it really all becomes just hanging out and having fun,” she said.

Also involved in the show were two alumni, Mike Golze ’09 and Molly O’Connell ’10. The two served as honorary producers, which entailed offering advice and insight to Peacock, as the director.

“They also have been very supportive along the way and will be seeing the show this weekend,” Peacock said, in anticipation of the show.

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