Backstage with “Our Town”

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(Host) Thornton Wilder wrote the play Our Town in 1938. His simple, yet moving story of a fictitious town in New Hampshire called Grover’s Corners won the Pulitzer Prize.

Vermont Actor’s Repertory Theater is bringing the classic play to life this weekend and next at Rutland’s Paramount Theater.

VPR’s Nina Keck goes backstage.

(Keck) Wilder’s famously understated play is an Americanized, Greek tragedy that tells of two families whose lives become intertwined when their children marry. In traditional Greek tragedies a chorus provides the audience with extra information. In Our Town, Thornton Wilder created the role of the stage manager – who acts as a sort of all knowing narrator. Actor Chris Larson plays the role in this production.

(Larson) “There’s doc Gibbs coming down main street now. Coming back from that baby case. Here’s his wife – coming downstairs to make breakfast. Doc Gibbs died in 1930. The new hospital is named after him. Mrs. Gibbs died first. A long time ago in fact. She’d gone out to visit her daughter Rebecca, who’d married an insurance man in Canton Ohio and died there. Pneumonia. . . . .”

(Keck) In addition to Doctor and Mrs. Gibbs, we meet their son George, played by actor Dan Loree. George falls in love with Emily and it’s their love story that’s the core of the play. In this scene George grapples with whether or not to go away to college.

(Loree) “You know Emily, whenever I meet a farmer I ask em what they think about going away to agricultural school. And some of em say it’s even a waste of time. And like you say Emily, being gone all that time and other places and meeting other people. Gosh if anything like that can happen, don’t want to go away.”

(Keck) George stays and the couple marries. But in midst of their happiness, Emily dies in childbirth. In the final act, she asks the stage manager if she can come back to Earth for one day. Director Peter Marsh says it’s a bittersweet scene because even though Emily wants to be back with her family, she comes to understand that her death is part of the natural cycle of life and she accepts it.

(Marsh) “So I think one of the really beautiful things about the story is that we get to see the joy of the human experience and the suffering of the human experience and we find out that that’s how it aught to be.”

(Keck) Eileen Blackman, one of the show’s three producing directors says that while the play may seem simple, it’s anything but.

(Blackman) “It grabs a hold of you. You think you’re just watching a group of actors on stage and you’re really watching your own life go by. And it’s extraordinarily moving, gripping and quite beautiful.”

(Keck) Our Town will be performed at Rutland’s Paramount Theater this weekend and next.

For VPR news I’m Nina Keck.

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