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The Inn at Little Washington is preparing to fill out their dining room with mannequins to defray social distancing requirements in the dining room. Images courtesy of the Inn at Little Washington.

It’s important to remember that here the darkest timeline, life is not universally harder for everyone. For example, David Lynch’s location scout’s job just got easier, with the revelation that the Inn at Little Washington has come up with an innovative and surreal way to adjust the aesthetics of their restaurant in accordance with social distancing requirements for the reopening dining room. For all of us who grew up with in-retrospect-extremely-strange children’s show “Today’s Special,” this is a once in a lifetime chance to live the dream of getting to socialize with mannequins.

With restrictions on capacity, Chef and Proprietor Patrick O’Connell—recently featured in a documentary on PBS — has decided that empty tables will be “theatrically dressed with mannequins.” The Washington, DC establishment is partnering with local companies, Signature Theater and Design Foundry, to create the sets and fill tables that are unable to be seated with actual guests. These companies will be providing the costumes and make up for the mannequins.

“I’ve always had a thing for mannequins — they never complain about anything and you can have lots of fun dressing them up,” said O’Connell, in press correspondence with Hyperallergic. “When we needed to solve the problem of social distancing and reducing our restaurant’s occupancy by half, the solution seemed obvious — fill it with interestingly dressed dummies. This would allow plenty of space between real guests and elicit a few smiles and provide some fun photo ops … We’re all craving to gather and see other people right now.  They don’t all necessarily need to be real people.”

It’s a mannequin scene, baby, and I dig it!

The Inn at Little Washington touts this move as an extension of their celebration of the “living theatre” of a restaurant and highlights their excitement for the opportunity to work with Design Foundry and Signature Theatre in Washington, DC — with whom they’ve collaborated in the past.

“When The Inn at Little Washington reached out with the idea to costume mannequins, we thought it was a fun and creative way for them to conform to social distancing guidelines,” says Signature Theatre’s Managing Director Maggie Boland. Signature’s costume shop manager, Frederick Deeben, went to work pulling costumes and accessories to outfit the dining mannequins in 1940s style dress.

“We can’t wait to see the dining room all decked out for a post-war party!” said Boland.

According to press materials, The Inn at Little Washington is known for being: “reverently irreverent as is felt through playful experiences, such as the cheese specialist with mooing cow cart that speaks exclusively in puns or the dining room dress code: ‘no wet bikinis.’” O’Connell was bestowed with the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award and National Humanities Medal in 2019, and this latest stroke of genius will surely cement his legacy with the slated May 29th reopening of the indoor dining rooms.

David Lynch’s location scout could not be reached for comment, because they have taken the rest of the week off to celebrate a job well done.

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Sarah Rose Sharp

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit — including at the Detroit Institute of Arts....