"This play is called Our Town. It was written by Thornton Wilder."
With those simple words, the "Stage-Manager" introduces what is arguably the finest American play. In three acts, Wilder’s characters create a scene, establish the life and loves of a town — and then teach the meaning of life. With actors who care, on a stage with laughably little scenery, the words do the work. Wilder offers dialogue and contemplation that are sparse, sincere and stunning.
I feel myself driven to re-write those words on my memory and in my heart. To offer them again to friends in a small, humble theater. To give these beautiful words another chance to do their magic. Last week, I told my friend and teacher, playwright Robert Ackerman, that I was waiting for a production where I could audition for the role of the Stage-Manager.
"No! No! No! That’s not how theater happens," Rob argued. "You don’t wait. You reserve a theater, find a cast, memorize and rehearse the script, sell tickets, and present the show."
So, I have decided to stage a new, independent production of Our Town. Why? First, there’s my history (and sudden present) with Our Town. Since experiencing that weekend in New Haven, I’ve thought deeply about the value of the message of Our Town — and how the words can change, indeed have changed — lives. In 2008, the 70th anniversary of the original production, those words can bring friends and neighbors to greater engagement in life.
So far, here’s the entire plan: "Reserve a theater, find a cast, memorize and rehearse the script, sell tickets, and present the show." I’m presuming that this will be an all amateur production, raising funds for a good cause. I do know of a couple of available performance spaces.
Do you have any advice for me at this moment, the very beginning? Any words of encouragement or advice would be very welcome.
Our Town was a wonderful experience.