Fifty-eight characters played by 17 actors across 18 scenes, and all in one room, the dining room.
Claremont’s year-long drama students are staging the 1980s production The Dining Room from May 16 to 19 and 23 to 26 at Claremont’s Ridge Theatre.
It’s part comedy, part drama, but mostly a commentary on how families are changing as the dining room is no longer the centre of a household. At one time, it was a sacred place where family values anchored heated discussions.
Now, the dining room is vanishing, said Claremont drama teacher and play director Colin Plant.
“It’s a place where families used to connect over a meal,” Plant said. “Nowadays the dining room is used less and less.”
The Dining Room is also a test for actors, as each has at least three characters, Plant said.
At one point in the production, Grade 11 student Jazmin Saunders-Scales will have about 90 seconds to get changed and flip from one character to the next.
“It’ll be so frantic in getting ready, I’m just hoping my props will be where they should be,” Saunders-Scales said.
Saunders-Scales plays Mother, Grace and Aunt Harriet. The first two are both mothers, though unrelated and of much different character. Oddly it’s her second time playing a mother named Grace, as she did so in Annie just a few months ago.
With so many characters in the play the challenges aren’t necessarily in the short turnaround between playing them on stage. Rather, it’s figuring how to play the character in the first place.
“One of my characters only has about eight lines and isn’t overly developed so you have to find the character yourself,” said Saunders-Scales.
Deidre Rolfe, also in Grade 11, has four characters with lots of time (relative to others) between the scenes, Aggy the house cleaner, Kate, Marjory and Ruth. With Kate, Rolfe plays a big city aristocrat and absent-minded parent, an ex-alcoholic amid an affair. But it’s Aggy that’s her favourite.
“Most of the characters say what they mean but Aggy is compliant [as an employee],” Rolfe said. “Aggy beats around the bush to say things, she has to be nice and comfort the kids even though she doesn’t want to be there. “
Tickets are $7.50 at the door, with 7:30 p.m. showings from May 16 to 19 and 23 to 26 at Claremont’s Ridge Theatre.