Jesse Whitehead pleads with Vicky Rafn not to leave her job as the house maid in Keizer Homegrown Theatre’s production of “The Dining Room.” (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

As much as Keizer Homegrown Theatre’s new play is about the lives of different families and the ways their lives overlap around the dining table, The Dining Room is also about the ways tradition impacts American lives.

“I hope that people are able to walk away seeing more clearly how tradition has affected their lives and then examine their thinking today,” said Evan Christopher, director.

The play opened Thursday, Oct. 4, and continues Oct. 5-6 and 11-13 at the Keizer Civic Center. Shows begin at 7:30 p.m. each day.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors. Tickets will be sold at the door as well as in advance through the Keizer Chamber of Commerce. The show runs about an hour and a half with a ten-minute intermission.

The play presents numerous challenges for the players with eight actors bringing to life 40 characters.

“It’s interesting to play such a variety of characters and to work with so many actors with so much versatility,” said Laura Reid, a McNary language arts teacher and one of the actors. “It’s a lot of fun to try on so many personas in one play and a challenge to diversify all the roles because some are younger, some are older and everything in between.”

The story focuses around different families at different time periods who have in their possession the same dining room furniture set manufactured in 1898.

It’s somewhat fitting then that the set of the play has its own storied history. It was once in the home of Sen. Wilbur Fisk Sanders before being purchased by the neighbor of producer Linda Baker.

“We basically raided their dining room starting with the carpet and didn’t stop until we got to the sideboard,” she said.

She also has in her possession a photograph of the Sen. Sanders between authors Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain when they visited the senator in his home territory.

“We can’t prove that they sat at the table, but it’s a fun bit of conjecture,” Baker said.

Baker produced the A.R. Gurney play about a decade ago at McNary, but said the maturity of the actors in the roles adds a whole new dimension.

“These guys bring life experience that the students didn’t have a clue about. They have a deeper understanding that makes it fun,” she said.

Keizer Homegrown Theater volunteers have cobbled together the play in exactly a month from first rehearsal to opening night, which has made for challenges of it’s own, Christopher said.

“We’ve had to work so much faster, but we were fortunate to draw out some really virtuoso actors,” he said.

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