'Our Town' opens this weekend

Posted on: Nov 8, 2021

About 30 Delano drama students will enact one of the great classics of American theater this weekend when “Our Town” opens in the Delano High School Performing Arts Center.

Opening night is Friday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. Additional shows follow at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13, Thursday, Nov. 18, and Friday, Nov. 19; and the series concludes with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Nov. 20.  

Written by Thornton Wilder, the production won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1938. Jack Neveaux, who is directing the DHS show, called it both a classic and “a touching study in person-to-person relationships.”

“According to the Wilder Family Estate, a production of Our Town is being performed at least once a day somewhere in the United States or abroad, but it has never been performed at Delano High School,” said Neveaux. “I wanted to give Delano Drama students a chance to share in that legacy.” 

Plot and themes
The three-act production focuses on the circle of life as exemplified in a relationship between George Gibbs and Emily Webb, who grow up as neighbors in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. Their childhood friendship leads to adulthood, marriage, and eventually death.

“It makes you think about life as a whole,” said senior John Lahlum, who plays a unique Stage Manager role that makes him both an active participant in the goings on and a philosophic narrator who breaks the “fourth wall” to address the audience directly. “He’s just a regular old guy who tells it like it is, but he talks about some pretty heavy stuff sometimes. That’s a big theme in this play, just how life goes for most people. It makes you think about living every day like you mean it.”

Senior Abby Hohenstein, who plays the role of Emily Webb, has appreciated the play’s straightforward approach to big themes represented in everyday life.

“I’m really liking that I can do some more professional-type acting instead of just musicals,” she said. “I can actually step into character and play somebody else that’s not just me. It’s more serious. We get to kind of let loose and really feel the emotions of the characters.”

Freshman Drew Nielsen, who plays George Gibbs, said that approaching more down-to-earth subjects than past productions like “Elf” or “Aladdin,” when he was in middle school, offers its own challenges. 

“Finding the person at the beginning is the biggest thing,” he said, explaining that actors can project the same lines in different ways that dramatically change the portrayal. “Once you kind of find the personality of the character – how you are going to portray them – it’s easier, because then you can guess how they would act it. (Not all portrayals) have to be the same.”

Unique features
One of the more unusual features of the play is its minimalistic set and props. In most cases, the characters simply pantomime actions rather than actually interacting with props.

“It’s mostly left up to the imaginations of the actors and the audience, so we have to be very compelling,” said Lahlum. “Even if something is not there, we have to make sure the audience knows that it’s there, or that they can tell what we’re doing when we’re cooking a meal or that type of thing.”

Neveaux explained that the minimalistic approach was a purposeful decision by Wilder when he wrote the play.

“I wished to record a village’s life on the stage, with realism and with generality,” Wilder said. “… So I tried to restore significance to the small details of life by removing scenery. The spectator through lending his imagination to the action restages it inside his own head.”

With fewer physical set pieces to manage, senior stage manager Emily Barron – distinct from the stage manager character in the play – said the cast and crew are developing their skills in other ways.

“A lot of it is mimed, which is cool because it gives (the cast) a chance to grow as actors, and (the crew) an opportunity to not worry about every little set piece coming on and off,” she said. “It just adds a whole different element and is something we haven’t done before. Blocking-wise, it’s more intricate and meaningful because you have to help people understand what you’re doing rather than just getting to your set piece.”

Lahlum said the passage of time portrayed in the show strikes a chord personally as he contemplates the final months of his high school career.

“The big lesson is, live every moment like you mean it,” said Lahlum. “It’s a very cheesy thing to say. Everybody says it. But especially for me this year as a senior – I remember being a freshman and the seniors then were like, ‘It goes by super fast.’ Now, boom, I’m a senior and I’m about to graduate. So you have to enjoy the little moments.”

Wilder viewed theater as “the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”

“We hope to give our audiences the gift of our art,” said Neveaux, “and share with them our insights into the human condition, drawn not from the stories of kings and queens, but from ordinary, small town folks like us all.”

• Tickets can be purchased online by clicking the “PAC” tab on the school district website.

Post Categories: High School