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Actors play multiple characters in comedy about conflict, class and family

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The Dining Room, on stage at Bethel College April 23-25, is a play that challenges its actors with multiple roles.

Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. each evening in Krehbiel Auditorium in Luyken Fine Arts Center.

The play by American playwright A.R. Gurney is often referred to as “an actor’s play,” said Ethan Koerner, Bethel director of theater.

“Each of the actors plays a new character in each scene, and the characters range in age and in class, so an actor might play an 80-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s in one scene and an 8-year-old at a birthday party in the next.”

The play opened in New York in 1982 and enjoyed off-Broadway success. There is only one setting, the dining room of a well-to-do family, though the scenes take place at many different times.

The performers “portray a wide array of diverse characters as they delineate the dying lifestyle of wealthy WASPdom, and the now neglected room [that] was once a vital center of family life,” said the New York Post, which called The Dining Room “hilarious and touching … [A]s comic sketch crazily succeeds comic sketch, a whole pattern of American life emerges.”

“I knew the play would be an exciting challenge, both for me as a director and for the actors to really dig their teeth into all the different characters,” Koerner said.

“The play explores inter-generational conflict, class struggles and what it means to be a family,” he added.

The cast list for the Bethel College production of The Dining Room is Shaelyn Atwood, freshman from Sabetha; Leland Brown III, senior from Galveston, Texas; Ethan Birdwell, sophomore from Moore, Oklahoma; Abigail Christensen, sophomore from Gardner; Kate Jolliff, freshman from Newton; Luke Loganbill, senior from Moundridge; Megan Meyer, sophomore from Valley Center; Mariel Robert, freshman from Osage City; and Dalton Smith, senior from Burrton.

Crew includes Meyer and Julia Campfield, junior from Wray, Colorado, stage managers; Jolliff, props; Leah Towle, senior from Lawrence, costumes; and Ben Carlson, sophomore from Hurley, South Dakota, lighting and sound.

Ticket prices are $10 for adults, $8 for non-Bethel students and adults age 65 and older and $5 for children (ages 3-12). Bethel student admission is free.

Tickets are available at Thresher Bookstore in Schultz Student Center weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. or in the Fine Arts Center ticket office starting one hour before each performance, subject to availability. Call 316-283-2500 (credit card orders only).

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2014-15 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2014-15. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

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