Prop manager of ‘The Dining Room’ shares perspectives

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The theatre department here at Union is excited to present the fall term production, “The Dining Room,” by Adam Ramsdell Gurney.

The play will begin on Nov. 4 and will show through Nov. 8.

The evening performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. and the matinée at 2 p.m. in Yulman Theater.

This play is like a computer: It looks simple externally but behind the screen, it is quite complex.

The play is directed by Patricia Culbert, Theater Senior Artist in Residence, who wanted to emphasize the various time periods in this piece.

For example, one scene may be set in the 1940s and the next scene in the early 2000s.

As an English major, working as the assistant stage manager and being in charge of stage properties for a performance was not exactly on my ideal list of activities.

However, once I read through the play, it became clear that Gurney does not reach out to one personality or one idea; he tries to touch on several portions through time.

During our second rehearsal five weeks ago, I found myself searching for a single object to fill every prop needed to perform this version of the play.

Within the 18 diverse scenes, there are over 150 individual props that are set and returned every night.

I have to account for every fork, knife, teacup, saucer, tray and so on, which provides me an extensive list of responsibilities.

I am also in charge of giving “handoffs” to actors throughout the play.

Handoffs are self-explanatory, I pass props straight to the actor in order to give them more time to transition from scene to scene.

This is incredibly useful especially if the actor has to do a quick change.

In the play, the action and relationships of each scene reflect a specific identity.

Each scene also challenges the audience in regards to the meaning behind the dining room.

The scenes aim to stimulate questions about deeper questions regarding philosophy and life.

For example, certain scenes may ask if we have lost touch with the importance of family gathering.

In contrast, audience members may wonder what should be allowed to go in and out of a room that is supposed to hold connection and positive energy.

The play has its own way of making you question your own family life.

There is a scene that personally reminded me of my family gathering on Thanksgiving years ago.

Watching my peers perform and ad-lib during this scene really captured the purpose of my own dining room.

It was a personal and emotional moment for me.

As I teared up, the stage manager, Matt Mintz, was confused as to why I was crying.

I was confused myself.

Why would this play have such an impact on me?

The reason I have come to accept is that this play speaks the truth.

Being the props manager helped me realize how vital the props are to each world created through the play. A scene set in the 1920s cannot have a colored newspaper, and a scene set in 2010 would not have a full set of China at a casual dinner party.

That is the magic behind this play. Living in the modern 2000s, we tend to forget the manners and purpose our ancestors lived by generations ago.

That being said, I hope to see Union students and faculty during our performance week, Wednesday, Nov. 4, through Saturday, Nov. 8.


Correction, Nov. 1, 2015: An earlier version of this article misstated Patricia Culbert’s title; she is Theater Senior Artist in Residence, not Dance Senior Artist in Residence. The article also incorrectly noted the time of matinée performance, which will occur at 2 p.m., not at 2:30 as originally stated. 

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