UNH stages 75th anniversary production of “Our Town”
Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 00:10
The University of New Hampshire is proud to present Thorton Wilder’s 75th anniversary production of the influential “Our Town.” The university’s Department of Theatre and Dance is pleased at the opportunity to show “Our Town” as the opener for the upcoming season. The play will be performed at the Johnson Theatre in the Paul Creative Arts Center, Oct. 2 to 6.
“Our Town” gives a glimpse into the life of a fictional, yet average, New Hampshire town in the early-20th century. The story follows the lives of the citizens living within the small town of Grover’s Corners, N.H., and how a sheltered and structured life can result in shaping a community.
Wilder incorporates all aspects of life within the play, triggering the miracle of existence and the misery behind losses. More importantly, Wilder wanted to push along the idea that all life should be cherished; life is too short to let the little things be forgotten.
Professor David Richman received the honor to direct the play. Richman has directed shows for 36 years, and has led UNH students through 35 performances.
The experience of directing the play has been very insightful for Richman.
“Live life to the full, savor every moment,” Richman said. “Don’t stop paying attention to every single one of your moments as they pass, because you don’t have an infinite number of moments.”
“Our Town” is considered to be one of the greatest American plays ever written and performed. The play is performed without props or a set and uses narration throughout the show from a stage manager.
The play has been so widely performed over the years, due to the simplicity of the set and the familiarity of what was presumed to be a traditional New Hampshire town. However, Richman disagrees with the common reasons behind theatres taking on the show, as he believes that the play should be executed with meaning and passion.
“If you perform it as a piece of nostalgia, or if you perform it amateurishly, you will miss the very intense, serious heart of the play, which is that we are all limited and we have to open ourselves to all of life’s possibilities,” Richman said.
The cast and crew will run its dress rehearsal on Oct. 1 in the Johnson Theater before it debuts the play to the public Oct. 2 to 5 at 7 p.m., and Oct. 6 at 6 p.m. The matinee performance welcomes grades seven through 12 to attend.
The director was looking forward to the matinee showing of “Our Town,” directed towards high school students.
“I expect some of the kids who come are going to be bored, and I expect that we’re also going to change a few lives,” Richman said. “And if we change one life, that’s enough.”
The cast and crew have had only five weeks to develop this play, and to prepare it for the stage. Richman and the crew worked six nights a week, for three hours each night.
The work has been physically and emotionally strenuous to all participating within the production. However, Richman highlighted that, as they run the play, they learn more and are able to dig deeper within the text to understand the morals Wilder incorporated.
The play has been performed so widely over the past 75 years that it could be seen as being outdated or overplayed, however Richman disagreed.
“Everybody thinks they know it,” Richman said. “They don’t, but they think they do. So far our performance is not going to be quite what they think it will be. I’m going to get a lot of flak about that. However, I think there are going to be some people that are going to be deeply moved by it, some people who will be deeply angered by it and some people who will be bored with it. That’s the nature of audiences.”
Thorton Wilder encourages all to take chances in life and to treasure the moments that they have each and every day so that in the end, there are no regrets.
“We ought to weep at Emily’s famous line, ‘Oh earth, you’re too wonderful for anyone to realize you,’ not because she finds earth wonderful, but because she was unable to find it so during her close-minded life in her close-minded town—which is, of course, our town,” Jeremy McCarter wrote in The New York Times.