Martin Flowers, Christina Hofer, Paul Zehr and Adrienne Schmucker, all senior acting majors, will put on “Dinner with Friends,” this weekend, a full-length play and their joint senior show.
While senior shows in the theater department often include one-act plays put on by an individual, Hofer said that this year’s four seniors believed they could do stronger work together. She said, “We’re all close friends who felt like we could trust each other and work on this crazy project together.”
The seniors play two couples, the show’s entire cast. Hofer plays Beth, a messy, spacey artist who is married to Flower’s character, Tom, a temperamental, confident and intensely needy lawyer.
Schmucker plays Karen, an upper-middle-class food critic who is talkative, caring, hospitable and quite the perfectionist. Karen is married to Gabe, played by Zehr. Gabe is also a food critic, but his personality is more introverted, and he often ends up as the middleman.
Flowers said, “At the very beginning of the play, we learn that Tom is leaving Beth for another woman. This is pretty much the event that sets off all the events of the play, so it’s not really a spoiler, but I also wouldn’t call it a play about divorce.”
He added, “’Dinner with Friends’ really revolves around how the four interact relationally with each other. It’s really a beautifully-written piece that really takes you within the intimate lives of these people, the parts of their lives we would never see in real life.”
Schmucker has had some trouble relating to her role as Karen. “She is almost the exact opposite of who I am as a person,” Schmucker said. She is committed to making this a learning opportunity, however, saying, “I want to find the goodness in her and the nasty parts that make us all human.”
According to Zehr, this identity formation theme reflects the experiences of all four seniors during their time at Goshen and makes “Dinner with Friends” the perfect senior show. He said, “The changes that our characters go through remind us a lot about how we have all changed as individuals and friends during our time at college.”
The seniors asked Jesse Bontreger, a junior, to direct their show. Hofer said, “In order to keep our expectations from clashing, we felt that we needed an outside individual to make most decisions.”
Zehr said they have “been in close contact with Jesse about the interpretation of the script and [their] collective vision for the show.”
Bontreger is joined by many others in his efforts to help with this show. The seniors are thankful to Melanie Hertzler, stage manager and co-props designer; Andrew Mueggenberg, tech director; Kasey Prentice, set designer; Riley Woods, light designer; Mary Seeck, costumes; Morgan Yordy, assistant stage manager; Jacob Zehr, sound; Hannah Sauder, hair and makeup and Lea Ramer, co-props designer.
The theater department is coming off of the mainstage production of Julius Caesar less than a month ago. Since all four seniors played lead roles in Caesar, they were left with only two weeks to memorize the script of “Dinner with Friends.”
The show is a huge undertaking, which Zehr said makes involvement both stressful and rewarding. “It’s been really intense learning lines and blocking while having to make sure everything else is taken care of for the production—posters, personnel, the set, et cetera,” he said.
Schmucker noted that balancing all of the memorizing with other schoolwork has been a challenge. She said, “You have to let go of outside thoughts when you are acting because you have to respond with your whole self, and as long as your thoughts are elsewhere you are never able to fully immerse yourself in the world of the play.”
Schmucker described some goofy moments amidst the stress. “My favorite parts were when I couldn’t stop laughing because we would be on a roll with the funnies,” she said.
Zehr’s relationships with the other seniors gives him confidence in the show. He said, “It is reassuring to know that, ultimately, we all trust each other and have each other’s backs.”
Hofer warns audience members that the show contains mature themes and strong language. She said, “This play is more than just showing off our work—it’s an invitation for the audience to ponder difficult questions concerning relationships, identity and divorce.”
Hofer reflected on this show as the culmination of her GC theater experience. “We have spent four years putting on everything from musicals to Shakespeare with a wide variety of hardworking people who strive to create art that is more than just entertainment,” she said. “The performance this weekend is a celebration of our work as artists as well as a thank you to the GC community that has supported us along the way.”
“Dinner with Friends” will be performed at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 8 and Saturday, April 9 in the Umble Center. Both performances will be followed by dessert receptions. The event is free and open to the public.