Thornton Wilder’s 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play is celebrating its 80th year of production. The current Southwestern College staging returns the play to its original roots.
Wilder’s vision includes a bare stage with no props. The story line instead focuses on the characters. Wilder’s simple staging was in response to the opulent theatrical productions of the 1920s and 1930s.
Once the audience settles in and acclimates to the bare surroundings, the impact of Wilder’s words start to take effect, according to Teddy Eck, who directs the Southwestern College production.
Set in the small New Hampshire town of Grover’s Corners form 1901 to 1913 the audience gets a look into the daily lives of its citizens through the Gibbs and Webb families.
The play, performed in three acts, follow the children of those families — George and Emily — through various stages of life and view the simple moments and interactions that amount to one’s life.
In his director’s notes, Eck provided the following insight into the nuances of the Southwestern College production:
“With this play Mr. Wilder wished to create a piece that focused not on the spectacle of lavish sets and costumes but on the written word and the connection between the audience and the performers. To accomplish this, Wilder called for ‘Our Town to be performed on a bare stage with ‘no curtain, no scenery, no props.’
“I can speak for myself and for many other theatergoers that it takes a few minutes to absorb the impact of the bare stage. But soon if you give yourself up to it, you find you are doing what Thornton hoped you would do and that is to envision the play, to experience it, through the filter of your own life and your own imagination.
“Wilder wrote soon after he had written ‘Our Town,’ that our true lives are lived in the imagination and the memory, and that was one of the principal reasons that he avoided props and sets and scenery. He didn’t want to define that for his audience. He wanted each member of each audience to bring his or her unique experience, unique imagination and memory to their experience of seeing the play.
“In this presentation of ‘Our Town,’ we seek to honor Wilder’s intent and allow for this play to connect to Southwestern College’s audience and community, to highlight our diverse community and town.
“I hope that this production serves as a reminder for us all to take in each moment as it is happening and to connect to those around us.”
The final four performances are set Nov. 15, 16, 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. at the Mayan Hall campus theater.
Limited on-stage seating is available. Tickets are available at the door. The box office opens one hour before each performance.
For information, call (619) 421-6700, ext. 5895 or visit the website at www.swccd.edu.