The three-act play, which chronicles life and death in a fictional New Hampshire town, is a favorite of director Ritchie Porter. Rather than put a new spin on the show, Porter encouraged cast members to respect Wilder’s intentions when he wrote the play.
“There’s no one way to do ‘Our Town,’ but I think to serve the play well you need to stay within a certain parameter and pay attention to Thorton Wilder’s original vision,” Porter said.
The cast’s emphasis on reading Wilder to the letter shows on stage; rather than employ props, students follow Wilder’s suggestion to mime actions such as cooking and stringing beans. Mark Jaster, a performing artist trained in mime by 20th-century masters Étienne Decroux and Marcel Marceau, led a workshop with the cast in mid-October to introduce them to basic illusion techniques, including arrest, point in space, and association.
Parker Dymond ’21 plays the Stage Manager, a narrator-like role that has challenged them to make the audience their scene partner and deliver lines in a matter-of-fact yet natural way.
“There’s a whole speech in the play about how it’s showing people in the future the simple lives of people in the past, instead of great historical events,” Parker said. “This is definitely not a play that you can change in that regard. Why it’s written is to show exactly what it was like, not someone interpreting what it was like.”
Liv Kindfuller ‘20, who plays the lead, Emily, said she has enjoyed diving into her character and learning how to “pick apart the pieces and put them back together.”
“What I’ve learned is how to have one person be so different in each act. She changes continually,” Liv said. “It’s been really fun to change with her. I’ve definitely seen myself in Emily, being a kid and having goals in the future.”
Cast members aren’t the only ones who’ve experienced growth in their roles as they’ve worked on “Our Town.” Leia Terrenzi ’20 is the show’s assistant director and said the role has refined her skills as an aspiring filmmaker.
“Because I have the chance to just focus on directing and not having to focus on casting or video or cinematography, I’m honing that specific skill,” Leia said. “I feel like I’ve improved and I know better how to do it.”
Porter said he appreciates how students have embraced the 81-year-old play, composed in a time that can be challenging for young people to relate to.
“Students have not shied away from asking questions or exploring Thorton Wilder’s ideas about what it means to be living, to be a human being, to have family, to be part of a community, and to find our place and meaning in the world,” Porter said.
Performances of “Our Town” will take place Friday, Nov. 1 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 2 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 3 at 3 p.m. in MacDonald Hall. Tickets are $3 for students and senior citizens and $5 for general admission. The show is appropriate for all ages, but recommended for fifth grade and up.