The Thornton Wilder play was the first play ever staged on campus by the theatre in the fall of 1963. The play was staged on platforms in a room above Osborne Hall’s gym, where chapel was held at the time.
The 50th anniversary production is honoring the original by including alumni and faculty members in the cast and crew.
Alumnus Lee Lavery, who acted in the original production, is serving as director.
“We wanted to make this a theatre event to honor the play and that first production, but to expand it to include more of the community,” Lavery said.
“In the play there are characters who are spoken to but are unseen,” Lavery said. “I’ve given them characters, so when they imagine the schoolteacher coming by, I have a schoolteacher. We have 36 people in the cast.”
With such a diverse group of people in the cast, some difficulties have arisen. Conflicting schedules and limited free time are some of the issues involved.
“As a production overall, we’ve had to be flexible,” said professor of history Jay Case, who portrays the stage manager in the play.
“Lee has been very good at being flexible and trying to take in the flexibility of people’s schedules,” Case said.
The nontraditional casting just adds to what is already an unconventional show. Case’s character often addresses the audience directly with long passages of monologue.
“The trick is how to do it in a way [so] that people don’t fall asleep because I’m just talking on and on,” Case said.
Our Town will also be unique because it uses almost no backdrops or decorations.
“No props are used at all; they’re all pantomimed,” said Elizabeth Finley, a junior communication arts major. “We do have tables and chairs to represent where the houses are onstage. But then if we’re doing scenes on the town street, nothing’s on stage at all.”
The actors are all in chairs along the sides of the stage when not taking part in the scene. They are also responsible for making the sound effects called for in the show.
[pullquote]“It’s different from most productions where you sort of get lost in somebody else’s world,” Case said. “This one draws you into their world and then keeps pushing you back out to make you think about your own world.”[/pullquote]
“There’s no attempt at verisimilitude in Our Town,” Lavery said.
Although Wilder wrote the play in 1938—meaning it is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year—it deals with subjects that transcend time.
“The thing about the show that some people don’t understand—they see the show and they’re like, ‘nothing happens, it’s just about people growing up,’” Finley said. “But that’s kind of the point.”
“It just brings up things about everyday life but puts them in a poetic way and makes you go, ‘oh yeah, that’s why that’s important,’” she said.
“It’s different from most productions where you sort of get lost in somebody else’s world,” Case said. “This one draws you into their world and then keeps pushing you back out to make you think about your own world.”
“Wilder said that the play is…about finding the marvelous meaning of the things in life we consider mundane,” Lavery said. “They are the universal truths.”
Our Town will run October 11-12 and 14-16 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the box office in Founders Hall.