A Deep-Dive into Characterization: The Hope and Heartache Diner

The Hope and Heartache Diner
Written by Lindsay Price

Available in full-length and one-act versions, The Hope and Heartache Diner by Lindsay Price is truly a wonderful character piece with parts for everyone.

Diners are a special place. You can get your coffee, fall in love, and find light when the world is dark. Duke’s is a family business – four generations strong.

Felix wants one last hurrah before leaving for college. She’s doing the full run – open to close – just like her grandpa did when he was a teenager. But why? Everyone knows Felix can barely wipe tables. Why is she trying so hard to connect? And what happens when Felix’s parents announce they’re selling the diner?

We were thrilled to hear about the success of the amazing student group at Hocker Grove Middle School in Shawnee, Kansas. Director Shawnasea Holst shared about the tremendous impact that each person had on the production as well as offering up some fantastic tips and advice for anyone looking to perform The Hope and Heartache Diner with their group:

The Hope & Heartache Diner was an excellent opportunity for my students to do a deep-dive into characterization, without giving up the large-sized cast that my program needs. This show has an excellent number of monologues for minor roles, so even the “small” parts are meaningful and full of potential. I LOVED going all-out on the set. The author’s note at the beginning of the script says that the set can be more suggestive, but as we began rehearsals, I felt like the diner was a character and it was fun and easy to add details to the set to make it feel very real and complicated. (Complicated because it’s beloved, yet in a horrendous state of disrepair.)

Rat and Wiki are probably the two most important casting decisions. Despite the number of lines Felix has, the real challenge is finding actors who can play such a wide range in Rat, and who can act wordlessly without being “quiet” like Wiki. I think I said a million times during auditions, “Shy is not the same as wordless, and wordless doesn’t mean you’re quiet when you do talk.” I felt like Wiki was a challenge for subtlety but also in creating the emotional climax necessary in the “Family Meeting” scene. I’m extremely proud of the work we did with those characters, and I feel like the wrong casting decisions could have tanked our whole show.

Congratulations, Hocker Grove Middle School!

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About the author

Lindsay Price