By Don and Peggy Doman and Lavinia Hart.
In the Director’s Notes (Wind D. Woods) we are told “Our production takes a turn with Wilder’s minimalist trimming away, the bareness he employs to lay bare essential elements of what it means to gather together and share in the long tradition of storytelling. Our production seeks to also expand his intervention by doing away in the trappings of another narrative convention, namely, that of the mono–perspective singularity of the Stage Manager. Working collectively, we sought to displace the centrality of the individual/soloist and embrace the ensemble in all its multiplicity. How can we view the past, present and future from the perspective of a constellation knowing full well, as Sly and The Family Stone reminds us, that “everybody is a star”! (P.S. We (Don and Peggy) saw Sly and the Family Stone at the University of Puget Sound (UPS) Field House a little more than fifty years ago.)
“Our Town” features a cast of twenty-three players, eight directors, designers, managers, and the informative Dramaturg. (A dramaturg is essentially a historian of the theater, the productions and the playwrights.)
“Our Town compels us to ask ourselves: How can we make the most of the simple moments in our precious lives? How can we make the most of the simple moments in our precious lives? How do we celebrate the universality of our milestones while also celebrating their uniqueness?” – Dramaturg, Anya Cavendar ‘25
The stage design was the essence of simplicity: Devin Peterson used two scaffolding towers and several tiled wooden boxes to represent furniture, buildings and everything else physical. The flexibility of imagination turned the props into homes, a village scene, and intimacy.
The home of the story is Grovers Corner, New Hampshire from 1913 to 1917. Doc Gibbs (Layne Jacobson) is the narrator. Shop keepers, farm families, the milkman and soda jerk (Howie Newsom, he was terrific), farm families, housewives, these are the town’s people. Doc’s wife (Julia Pearl-Styles) is the mother of George, who wants to marry his high school sweetheart Emily Webb (Alice Noble). They are very young, but the relationship grew over the thirteen years to sweetness and commitment.
There are scores of characters, who merge in the story – after all, a village is a mosaic of lives. Frankly, I had some trouble recognizing which actor played which part because some of them played several characters! The story moved along quickly over the four years. Do not be dismayed if a few of the actors do not enunciate or speak loudly enough. These are actors who are still learning. When they are on Broadway, there will be no more trouble hearing them.
An interesting point is that the story seems to be a time of innocence. In 1917 the US entered World War I and the small and large American communities, as well as the world, were forever changed. It would have been interesting if Wilder had written a revisit to Grovers Corner; however, it would not have been as innocent. War explodes the common expectations of life.
“Sometimes times things are never as them seem.” Paul Newman playing the Stage Manager.
The ending comes after the war. Life has completely changed. People have died, including several lead characters and yet, a simple question like “Am I pretty, mama?” can still tear our hearts out.
If you get a chance to see the made for TV movie “Our Town” buy it and share it with your friends. Here is a teaser from IMDB – https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0353849/
“Our Town is a 2003 American made-for-television film adaptation of the 1938 play of the same name by Thornton Wilder starring Paul Newman, who was nominated for both an Emmy Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding acting.”
One of Don’s favorite stories about his cousin Lavinia, is her at some big theater in New York. She was returning from the lobby to her seat and she mentioned to her friend that she had just seen the beautifully dressed Joanne Woodward. Her friend was impressed and asked, “Was Paul Newman with her?” Lavinia answered back: “No, she was just with some little old man.”
Our Town at UPS runs October 27, 28 as well as November 2, 3, 4 at 7:30 as well as 2:30 on November 4. For tickets, go to https://ups.universitytickets.com/w/event.aspx?SeriesID=14