In a bit of theatrical serendipity, Our Town was slated to be the first play staged in my first semester at Southern Arkansas University. Thus, Thornton Wilder’s classic play served as my introduction not only to my student actors, but the greater SAU community and the population of Magnolia, as well.
Putting on any play is akin to living in a small town. Unlike big cities, where you can choose who you spend your time with, in a play (and small-town living), your fellow castmastes are chosen for you. Over time, new relations are made, work is done, fun is had, disagreements occasionally surface, and everyone becomes keenly aware of everyone else’s business…whether they like it or not. But most importantly, putting on a play builds a new community.
Then, for a couple of hours, the population of that small town grows a bit when an audience walks in the door. Theatre, just like small town living, brings individuals together in space and time and makes them learn how to listen to one another—and appreciate one another.
“There are the stars-doing their old, old crisscross journeys in the sky. Scholars haven’t settled the
matter yet, but they seem to think there are no living beings up there. Just fire…or chalk.”
Inspired by that one line, my cast, designers, and I built the world of Grovers Corners, New Hampshire, out of those two very elements…and a little bit of scaffolding.
Photo Credit: Aaron Street and Aaron Wallis, Southern Arkansas University.