Notes from the Director
Make Your Lives Extraordinary
Life is tears, fears, and smiles. – Taylor Carson
Our Town is a famous play. It’s a twentieth century classic. It debuted in 1938 at three different theatres in three different productions within the span of two weeks. It also garnered playwright Thornton Wilder a Pulitzer Prize that same year. Even with all the hoopla and accolades this play received, so what? Why should we care about this play three quarters of a century after it was written?
Some folks are drawn to Our Town because they think it’s a play about small town American life in the early 1900s. Yes and no. Wilder does paint a picture of simpler times and simpler ways, but I think that’s actually just the canvas for something even bigger. I don’t think the play is about this specific fictional town or small towns in general. That’s why he didn’t name the play Grover’s Corners. I think he called it Our Town because, ultimately, it’s not a play about people in 1901 in a village in New Hampshire. It’s a play about all of us, it’s a play about our towns and our lives, no matter where or when. Just as Romeo and Juliet is about us, our parents, our friends, our neighbors, so is Our Town. It became an enduring classic because it somehow reaches beyond just being about a single town; it’s about life. Wilder wrote:
Our Town is not offered as a picture of life in a New Hampshire village; or as a speculation about the conditions of life after death (that element I merely took from Dante’s Purgatory). It is an attempt to find value above all price for the smallest events of our daily life.
I didn’t choose to have Our Town in this Season because I thought it was a quaint look at a quaint time. I chose it because I believe this play is about our lives – right here, right now. There’s nothing idealized about Grover’s Corners when you take a hard look at it. Look for the subtle hypocrisies of the parents, the tragic cries for help from the alcoholic choirmaster, and the fears of young adults on their wedding day. The play takes us through the whole arc of existence: Daily Life; Love and Marriage; Death and Dying. And while we don’t get the star-crossed lovers ending their lives in suicide like in R&J or the attempted rape of a best friend’s girlfriend in 2Gents, we also don’t get a sterilized, idealized sentimentality. We get a look at life that asks us to look at our own lives. We get a plea to remember that each day matters. The soul of this play is akin to the film Dead Poets Society:
They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? Carpe, carpe diem. Seize the day boys. Make your lives extraordinary.
Wilder reminds us of our mortality throughout Our Town. The Stage Manager introduces characters and immediately tells us when they die. In Act III we discover a lot of information about how characters we met and loved earlier in the play have died. Life, Love, Marriage, Death. The heart of the play is the encouragement to make our lives count. Don’t wait to tell others what you really think. Don’t wait to live the life you want to live. And I guess that’s why we’ve got to love those people who deserve it like there’s no tomorrow; because when you get right down to it, there isn’t.
Artistic Director and Co-Founder