The Western Stage begins its 30th
Anniversary Pearl Jubilee Season on May 14th with Thornton Wilder’s
beloved American classic Our Town.
Set in the fictitious community of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire at the turn
of the 20th Century, the play follows the lives of two average
American kids, George Gibbs and Emily Webb, as they court, marry and face the
inevitable when Emily unexpectedly dies giving birth. It is a play that
embraces the most common elements of this rural
Wilder created this sense of universality in Our Town using a theatricality inspired
by his avant-garde contemporaries in
Wilder calls for Grover’s Corners to be created by
suggestion and pantomime on a bare stage. “The scorn of verisimilitude,” writes
Wilder in his notes to the director of Our
Town,” throws all the greater emphasis on the ideas which the play hopes to
offer.” Aiding Wilder in this project is an ever present “stage manager”—an
inspiration from Pirandello—who acts as a narrator, homespun oracle, and soda
jerk throughout the story. He helps Wilder weave a story that uses the mundane
particulars of everyday life—seemingly trivial matters such as the feeding of
chickens and the town’s census report—to create a vivid picture of small town
There could be no greater testimony to the success of Wilder’s project than last year’s award winning documentary OT: Our Town. The film follows Catherine Borek and her English class at Dominguez High School in Compton, California as they stage the first play at the high school in 20 years.—and they choose to do Our Town. It is not only a film that depicts the power of the arts on the lives of children, but also shows the power of this play to cross ethnic, cultural, and geographical divides, thereby proving its own premise.
Lorenzo Aragon (Man of La Mancha 2002, Rain of Gold 2003) returns to TWS to direct Our Town and, appropriately enough, begin work on the Salinas Stories project. (See 30th Anniversary Article.) Veteran TWS stage manager and director Linda Hancock is also on board as assistant director. Design team includes Lynne Willis, sets, and Jim Hultquist, lighting. Costume, Makeup & Hair Design by Rhonda Kirkpatrick-Griffith; Sound Design by Tony Tissot; Musical Coordination by Andy Gilhooley and Stage Management by Zalissa Ré Crane.
The Western Stage’s Pearl Jubilee Season continues with The Cripple of Inishmaan in June and Hello, Dolly! in July. Also mark your calendars for All My Sons, Sweeney Todd, Tartuffe, and Into the Woods later this year.
Dan Tarker, Literary Associate