Review Fix chats with playwright Diana Arnold, who discusses her new one-woman show, “On the Table,” set for its premiere at the Train Theatre on May 12. Detailing the origin of the production and who will like it most, Arnold lets us know that it’s about a lot more than waiting tables.
Review Fix: What inspired the creation of this production?
Diana Arnold: On the Table is inspired by 15 years of waiting tables in New York City. Those years made me think – why are there no stories about this? If all the servers in this city are artists and storytellers – and if the chefs and bartenders are becoming celebrities, why is there no voice to the waiter?
Is it because…..once we clock out and collect our tips, we black it out?! It’s so awful sometimes that we go out with our co-workers and just slouch and complain. We see ourselves as being “the help,” and that can be so engrossing that we don’t see our work as something important to share.
I’m unique in that, I don’t feel this way.
Restaurants have saved my life! I walked into one on my second day in New York in 2002, and the service industry has brought me everything I have: my longest lasting relationships, my identity, my rent!
You know, I feel such a joy from being on the dining room floor – and after many, many years, I became mature enough to see that I might be the last waitress on earth who enjoys it! And once I could see that, accept it, fully…I would come home at 2 am after a shift in the west village and my pen just wouldn’t stop.
After I turned 30 I was finally at a place in my life where I could write about it – I could write about why I wait tables. I finally saw being in service as a choice, and the choices we make are powerful, and that is really what I’m trying to convey in this work.
Review Fix: What was the research process like?
Arnold: 5 shifts a week, for 15 years at New York City’s best restaurants. Working alongside all the people I have, has been the greatest gift and training I could possibly ask for. Talking and listening for 8 hours a night, is the greatest research I’ve ever done.
Review Fix: What are your goals for this project?
Arnold: I have been workshopping On the Table in different iterations and venues for a year, always adding new and current material to it each time. This excites me, and I will always make every theatre show different so my audience can keep coming back!
I am also very eager to create a community where the service industry can come and tell their stories. A series is in the works called FOH (front of house stories), and I’m very excited to hear what has so long been left unsaid. Get in touch with me, if you’d like to share.
Review Fix: Who do you think will enjoy it the most?
Arnold: I dedicate this work to anyone who has ever sat in my section.
I think what makes On the Table so special is that it is really for anyone who has ever stepped foot in a restaurant. It is for all the people in the service industry who have ever clocked in, trained, wiped a table, washed a dish, poured a glass…But it is also for anyone who has ever received a dish, or heard the specials, or waited for a table, or asked their server their name…or had a dining experience that stuck with them. It is for everyone.
And, this work is for my dad. I think he would have really loved it.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Arnold: Next, we are going to film this theatrical version in a restaurant with customers at tables, and have that lead to a half hour original TV show that I’d be the creator of. A girl can dream…
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
Arnold: Come see this show at the Triad Theatre on May 12th at 9:30 pm.
Currently, I’m working on a book that is sort of a how-to guide for becoming a great server. Look out for it.