I’ve been thinking about Thornton Wilder and how he came to Our Town.

An earlier work, recommended to me by my friend and teacher, Robert Ackerman, offers some hints…

The Long Christmas Dinner, in one act, is fun to read (30 pages) and would be a treat in the theater for both actors and audience. Consider the stage direction:

The setting is a formal dining room on Christmas day. A long dining room table is placed at the edge of the stage. The audience is, metaphorically, sitting across the Christmas table from the actors. 

At the left is a portal, a threshold representing birth, decorated with greenery and flowers. At the right is another portal, a threshold representing death, covered in black bunting.

During the single act, actors enter through the doorway of birth, age at the table (donning white wigs at the right time without fanfare), and exit through the doorway of death.

Here they come. Off they go. We see ninety years of the Bayard family pass in only thirty pages.

In The Long Christmas Dinner, Wilder realized that the meaning of life can be more clearly appreciated when life flashes before our eyes. In legend, that happens to each of us as we face death. Wilder offers near-death wisdom while there is still time to change.

(Our independent, community production of Our Town is tentatively scheduled for the last weekend of June 2008.)