‘The Dining Room’: THS finds drama, comedy in familiar place

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The dining table will turn into a time travel machine during Tupelo High School’s upcoming production.
“The Dining Room” by A.R. Gurney will be staged Thursday to Saturday at the THS Fine Arts Auditorium. The play moves through the decades to capture a series of dramatic and comedic moments that take place in a familiar spot.
“It spans from the 1910s to the present day,” said Allana Austin, director. “All of the scenes are separate and individual. The only thing that connects them is the dining room and the table.”

Adaptation
“The Dining Room” was originally written for six actors to perform all of the roles, but Austin opened it up so that 19 students portray 54 parts.
Alexis Hatchett, 17, has a number of roles, but her favorite is Ellie, a wife who gets into a seemingly simple argument with her husband.
“It’s really intense. You can tell they have real problems,” Hatchett said. “By the end of it, you don’t know whose side you’re on.”
The scenes last from three to four minutes. A father gives life lessons to his sons during the Depression; a grandfather explains how he wants his funeral to go; a wife does homework so she can earn a degree and get out of the house; and many more.
“There are some funny scenes, dramatic scenes and some ‘huh?’ scenes,” Austin said. “You get a lot of variety. It shows how the purpose of a dining room can change.”
In one scene, Nathan Parker and Penelope Dao, both 15, play a brother and sister who are trying to divide the property after a parent dies. Parker said his favorite scene is far less serious.
“It’s a birthday party with little kids,” he said. “You get to bring out your inner child.”
Dao said she enjoys the last scene, “when everyone comes on stage and we have a big dining room party. I like the way everybody interacts with each other.”
“The Dining Room” will travel the years, presenting snapshots of families and friendships. Hatchett said audience members should recognize the territory.
“I think anyone who comes will think, Oh, yeah, I’ve been in that situation before,” she said. “They’ll have one scene or, hopefully, several scenes that they can connect to.”

Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@journalinc.com.