The Art of Dining
By Tina Howe
Directed by Jim Nuttall
Monday & Tuesday, September 9 & 10
7:00 pm
Nicolet College Theatre, Rhinelander

Art of Dining Play graphic

The Story

Owners Cal and Ellen have put their life savings, reputations, and marriage on the line to open The Golden Carousel, a high-end restaurant in the living room of their converted home. While chef Ellen agonizes over the quality of the food, maître d’ Cal worries about recouping their financial investment.  He also keeps eating the ingredients for the evening meal.  Over the course of the evening’s dinner, we meet the patrons at three tables: Hannah and Paul are fine dining addicts that have a passionate reaction to good food; the excruciatingly shy author Elizabeth meets the charming publisher David; and Nessa, Herrick and Toni, 3 best friends having a “girls night out”.

The play jumps back and forth between groups at the tables and Carl and Ellen in the kitchen, adding up to around 20 short scenes (or vignettes) about the quirky things we all encounter in a restaurant. People can’t decide what to order, argue over who ordered what, nervously spill their food, carry on several conversations simultaneously. Their actions and conversation are hilarious and delicious examples of how not to act and what not to talk about while dining.The play has a lot of physical comedy and sketch-comedy bits, much like a series of short segments on Saturday Night Live.



There are roles for 3 men and 6 women. The playwright lists them as in their 30’s or 40’s but we will change those ages significantly. We will cast the ages based upon who shows up at auditions and pairs up with the other person(s) in their group. For instance, the three women just need to be friends of a similar age – they could be in their 20’s or in their 60’s. What is most important is finding people with good chemistry with each other; we can always make the ages fit the cast. That means anyone that can pass for over twenty, all the way up to 60’s or 70’s can get cast, if they play well with a partner at auditions. The quirky comedy of the play is very much dependent on the pairings of the characters.  Here are the characters in the 4 groups:

Ellen is the perfectionist cook, Cal is her husband that loves to play the part of the gallant maître d’, but is an anxious compulsive eater in the kitchen.  They need to be old enough to know each other well, and young enough to have the energy to run an entire restaurant by themselves. They are the anchor characters in the play – much of the plot is driven by their situation, and they are featured for about half of the play.

Hannah and Paul are a well-to do couple – at first it seems that their marriage isn’t going to last since they don’t hear a single thing the other is saying, but when they start looking over the menu, things switch to a . . . let’s say a very exuberant anticipation for the evening’s meal. They get a bit tipsy towards the end and start embarrassing each other.

Elizabeth is an extremely awkward nervous introverted author who is meeting David, a publisher for the very first time.  He is going to offer to publish her short stories and she will fall to pieces and not be able to find the restroom.  There should be a difference in age, she is shy and neurotic (probably young) and he is confident and at ease (probably older), but the ages could work the other way around as well.

Nessa, Herrick and Toni are longtime friends. They are also somewhat competitive with each other, and aren’t shy about calling each other out for their foibles. They can argue in one instant, then laugh with each other the next. They get a little buzzed by the end too. We’’ try to find three women that work well together as a comic team.  


Audition Information

Auditions will consist of readings from short sections of the script that the director has pre-selected, repeated several times until all auditioning have had several chances to read.  As always, everyone is welcome; you do not need to be a student at Nicolet or have any previous experience in acting to be in the cast. No preparation is required, although actors are best prepared if they have read the script beforehand.  You only need to audition on one of the two nights (though many actors choose to attend both).

You will need to bring your calendars so you can list any conflicts you may have for rehearsals.   


Rehearsal Details

The play breaks down very nicely into a collection of short scenes, featuring each of the 3 tables or Carl & Ellen in the kitchen.  Therefore, we can focus on one of the groups each night, giving the other people time off. We may have some simultaneous rehearsals early on so we can learn the lines as quickly as possible. One group may rehearse on stage, and another group may just focus on running lines & delivery in a dressing room. 

Cast members must be available for rehearsals and performances September 11-November 17. Rehearsals will run from 6:30 - 9:30 pm, probably 4 nights a week. We can work around schedule conflicts if there aren’t too many, so be sure to bring your schedule of conflicts to auditions.


Performance Dates

Performances are November 8-10 and 14-17. Performances start at 7:30 pm except for the Sunday matinees which start at 2:00 pm.

Further Information

Scripts are available for a three day checkout from the service desk on the third floor Richard J. Brown Library, located in the Lakeside Center at Nicolet College in Rhinelander.


Contact Jim Nuttall at 715-365-4476 or