It is unusual for a freshman to arrive at Duke with enough confidence to jump in to directing, but Sonali Mehta is a first-year student whose background already includes acting, directing and working tech. Sometimes the hardest part of directing is getting people excited about your vision so that you can pull a team together to put on a show. Sonali brings experience with the two of the biggest challenges that a director faces: creative problem-solving and community building. She got to work with an ensemble in high school that gave her an appreciation for the collaborative arts, and her school encouraged creativity, committment and initiative, rewarding freshmen actors with director’s roles as seniors in high school.
In spite of Duke Players’ unfamiliarity with the show, Sonali’s proposal to direct A. R. Gurney’s The Dining Room gained traction because she’s passionate about the script. Seeing a production of the show was a key influence in her decision to pursue theater in high school, which led to her being cast to perform some of the 50 roles in The Dining Room three years later. Her enthusiasm for the script itself translated to auditions. She put together an informative online process and Duke Players got a record response from people wanting to audition. Sonali’s 21st century choice to do open casting brings new opportunities to find the humor in this comedy about a dying breed: upper-middle-class WASPs. The fifty roles can be done with as few as six actors, this production features twelve. The hunt is still on for students interested in costume or set design. The Dining Room will run November 4-6 in Brody Theater and admission is free. Meanwhile we’re happy to announce the cast and crew so far:
Ensemble- Grant Besner, Stephen di Maria, Ona Ebright, Ryan Eichenwald, Margot Hasty, Paige Hetley, Emily Levinstone, Sabrina Maciariello, Maria Naclerio, Alex Sanfilippo, Devesh Sharma, Madeline Wilkerson.
Stage Manager- Morgan Fears; Assistant Stage Manager - Dina Daas; Light Designer- Ryan Eichenwald; Sound Designer- Jihwan Hwang.