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Play to serve up theatrical feast

Thursday, October 30, 2014

LAWRENCE— Following five generations of a modern Kansas family through one unending, metaphoric dinner, “The Big Meal” is a theatrically innovative rendering of the universality of the American family. The play will open Nov. 14 at University Theatre.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14-15 and 21-22, and at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 16 and 23.

“The play unfolds as an 85-minute chamber piece in which the dialogue unfolds like a piece of music. Overlapping lines, choral speaking and artfully abrupt scene shifts define the play’s structure,” said Peter Zazzali, director and assistant professor of theatre. “It is as unique in its form as it is universally identifiable in its content.”

This production will trace the triumphs, tribulations and relationships through the lens of sharing meals. A married couple, Sam and Nicole, are at the center of a domestic drama that extends from their parents to their great-grandchildren in a narrative rife with the staples of family life: childbirth, parenthood, marriage and death. 

“The students are experiencing a very different kind of theatre challenge in that they have to assume multiple characters in an ensemble piece that is entirely actor-driven,” Zazzali said. “The show simply will not work if the actors are not working together to render these rich characters with specificity, nuance and artistic truth. It tests and challenges them in new and interesting ways towards bringing the very best out of them as young actors.”

An ensemble piece in the richest sense of the word, “The Big Meal” consists of eight actors who play 15 characters in a small playing space furnished with nothing more than three tables and six chairs. It is an actor-driven piece with minimal, though important, elements of design.

The company includes Brian Buntin, Paola senior, as man one; Bronwen Capshaw, Burbank, California, sophomore, as assistant director; Jake Dutton, Wichita sophomore, as stage manager; Kendra Hacker, St. John sophomore, as waitress; Connor Lumpkin, Overland Park sophomore, as assistant stage manager; Jaclyn Nischbach, Wildwood, Missouri, junior, as woman three; Jacquelyn O’Connor, Burlington sophomore, as woman two; Eric Palmquist, Lawrence senior, as man three; Pamela Rodriquez-Montero, Heredia, Costa Rica, graduate student, as costume designer; Lindsey Roesti, McPherson senior, as girl; Abby Sharp, Rossville sophomore, as woman one; Kevin Siess, Lawrence senior, as man two; and Thomas Tong, Olathe senior, as boy.

It also features Mark Reaney, theatre professor and scenic and lighting designer.

Tickets for “The Big Meal” are on sale now at KU ticket offices and online at www.kutheatre.com. Tickets are also available by calling the University Theatre, (785) 864-3982, and the Lied Center, (785) 864-ARTS. Tickets are $18 for adults, $17 for senior citizens and KU faculty and staff, and $10 for children. KU student tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door.

For more information on the University Theatre, visit www.KUTheatre.com. Follow KU Theatre on Twitter (@KU Theatre).