- Susannah Clark
Time for DINNER
Updated: Jul 4, 2018
Welcome to this week’s DRAMATURGY CORNER. We’re about a week and a half into rehearsals for our summer repertory, and things are beginning to look very exciting. From meetings with designers to in-depth character studies to movement workshops, we’ve been very busy simultaneously rehearsing two shows in our Silver Spring space.
Before we proceed any further in the blog festivities, though, I think it’s probably wise if I confess something to you. Before our repertoire for this season came to be, I had only vaguely heard of Moira Buffini, and had never heard of Dinner at all. Now, to be fair, this may be my ignorance, or the fact that I’ve spent the last year buried in Shakespeare. However, I suspect it’s likely that many of you are in the same boat – so I’d like to dedicate this post to getting everyone up to speed on Ms. Buffini and the darkly hilarious Dinner, our pairing with Macbeth this summer.
Born in England to Irish parents, Moira Buffini is an Olivier-nominated playwright and screenwriter. She is also one of the founders of Monsterism, a movement in British theatre dedicated to the production of contemporary epic plays – large-scale pieces written for large stages. In a 2003 interview with The Independent, Buffini said: “We’re looking for the broad sweep: pushing the boat out when it comes to form, letting writers under 50 rediscover how to write for large spaces, avoiding empty sensationalism but reaching for the epic. We’ve had enough of plays about blokes in kitchens and birds in bedrooms.”
Monsterism is a very exciting concept for us. While there are plenty of brilliant contemporary plays out there, it seems like too much new work is relegated to hyperrealism and unit sets (and smaller budgets). Monsterism wants to give writers the opportunity to create work with large ensemble casts, big worlds, and major ideas. And they don’t want that work to be in a black box – they want it on the main stages of major institutions.
Buffini’s epic tendencies are a perfect fit for 4615. As I mentioned last week, Macbeth and Dinner have a lot of beautiful similarities between them, but this is perhaps my favorite. Yes, Dinner takes place on a unit set, in real time, in a domestic setting – but Buffini’s ambitions are Shakespearean in scale. The spirit of her work is that of a contemporary classic.
Dinner is Buffini’s most famous work, but for those who are unfamiliar with it like I was, here’s a brief summary: Paige is throwing a dinner party to celebrate the publication of her husband Lars’s book, Beyond Belief. They are joined by a vegetarian artist, a divorced microbiologist, a sullen newscaster, a mysterious Scotsman, and an unsettlingly silent waiter. It’s a bit difficult to say more without giving away any of the fun surprises (#dontspoildinner), but suffice it to say, the evening is full of acerbic barbs, personal secrets, and food that is, to put it mildly, avant-garde.
It’s also completely hysterical. It almost reminds me of an Albee play –a Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf-type situation, with that simmering and menacing domestic tension – but with the surrealistic elements amped way, way up. It’s going to be a horrifying and hilarious production, and I can’t wait to see how it continues to develop over the next few weeks of rehearsal.
A lot of exciting stuff is coming up in our next few entries – actor interviews, rehearsal missives, and who knows what else? Stay tuned!