Kennesaw State University
Department of Theatre and Performance Studies
BY THORNTON WILDER
CO-DIRECTED BY MARGARET BALDWIN AND CHRISTOPHER HAMPTON
COMPOSER/SOUND DIRECTOR CHRISTOPHER HAMPTON
Our Town, written by Thornton Wilder, tells the story of a community living in the fictional town of Grover’s Corner. Throughout the three acts of the show, we see the daily lives of the people in the town. Each act focuses on a different aspect of human life: love, marriage, and death. While the play focuses on community, we see these aspects played out mainly through George Gibbs, Emily Webb, and their families. Through the changes in their relationships, the changes of a community are shown. Unlike most plays, Our Town is a minimalistic show done with relatively little set, and objects are pantomimed. In addition to the untraditional nature of the show, the character known as the stage manager breaks a few rules of theatre such as breaking the fourth wall and being aware that he is in a play just to name a few.
THE STORYTELLER - Thornton Wilder
Thornton Nevin Wilder was an American playwright and novelist born on April 17, 1897 in Madison, Wisconsin. Wilder’s greatest contribution to our literary society was formed by using formal obligations to structure and inspire his work. He is a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner for his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927) and his plays Our Town (1938) and The Skin of Our Teeth (1942). After graduating Berkley High School in 1915, Wilder received his B.A. from Yale in 1920. He also studied archaeology and Italian at the American Academy in Rome (1920-21). He spoke and read several different languages as well as taught French. Wilder was a man of many talents and interests; he was an exceptional essayist, screenwriter, research scholar, translator, and lecturer. Honored with the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1952), the first American to be awarded the German Booksellers Peace Prize (1957), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1963), and the National Book Committee’s Medal for Literature (1965). He died in his home in Hamden Connecticut on December 7, 1975. For more information on Thornton Wilder please visit the Wilder Family website at > thorntonwilder.com
PRELUDE FROM THORNTON WILDER
Thornton Wilder wrote a preface to Our Town which ran in The New York Times on February 13, 1938, but was not published with the play until 1979. In this preface, he explains many of his thoughts about and inspirations for Our Town.
WHY THIS PLAY NOW?
Our Town was written nearly a hundred years ago, yet the themes still remain relevant to our current society. In 2018 America, ideas of community, connection, and the ways in which we build bonds with each other have become even more important is such a divisive historical moment. Looking at the current events below, we can see how the themes around belonging, community, and the joys that come with being in relationship with other presented in Our Town still have something to contribute to our current culture.
Just last month Hurricane Michael devastated areas of the southeast, particularly
Florida. Various communities and organizations have come together to volunteer to
provide relief to victims of the disaster, demonstrating the importance of community
> volunteerflorida.org - How will you help Florida recover from hurricane Michael?
Technological and social advances have greatly altered society and our definition
of community in recent years. Much like the advances in Our Town, social media is met with positive and negative reactions as to if it is truly helpful
> View The Video - Is Social Media a Good or Bad Thing for Society?
African American citizens have had the police called on them by white people for doing mundane activities like mowing a lawn, checking out of an Air-BNB, moving out of their own home, swimming in a pool in their neighborhood, being at Starbucks and needing to use the bathroom, and being on vacation. In fact, a Dallas man was recently murdered in his own home by a police officer who went into his apartment thinking it was her own. A greater sense of community is needed in order to prevent undeserving fear and racial bias of one another.
> nytimes.com - Black & White Police.
> washingtonpost.com - A police officer walked into a man’s home mistaking it for her own and killed him,
THE BELOVED COMMUNITY
One of the overarching ideas of inspiration for this production of Our Town is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s idea of the “beloved community.” Here is an explanation of the “beloved community” from the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia:
“The Beloved Community” is a term that was first coined in the early days of the 20th Century by the philosopher-theologian Josiah Royce, who founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation. However, it was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., also a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, who popularized the term and invested it with a deeper meaning which has captured the imagination of people of goodwill all over the world.
For Dr. King, The Beloved Community was not a lofty utopian goal to be confused with the rapturous image of the Peaceable Kingdom, in which lions and lambs coexist in idyllic harmony. Rather, The Beloved Community was for him a realistic, achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to and trained in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence.
The core value of the quest for Dr. King’s Beloved Community was agape love. He said that “Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people…It begins by loving others for their sakes” and “makes no distinction between a friend and enemy; it is directed toward both…Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community.” One expression of agape love in Dr. King’s Beloved Community is justice, not for any one oppressed group, but for all people. As Dr. King often said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” He felt that justice could not be parceled out to individuals or groups, but was the birthright of every human being in the Beloved Community. I have fought too long hard against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating my moral concerns,” he said. “Justice is indivisible.”
Citation: > The King Center website - “The King Philosophy.”
Q&A with the Directors: Professor Margaret Baldwin & Christopher Hampton
Q&A with a Cast Member: Troy Martin and Christopher Cohorst
Our Town Cast
Top row (L to R): Kiara Heffner, Brandon Bayani, Brandy Bell, Jack Blackstock, Riley Still, Patrick Cohely, Himie Freeman, Margaret Moore, Margaret Baldwin (director), Christopher Hampton (director), Jeremy Peterson, Troy Martin, Blake McNeal, Christopher Cohorst, Riley Schatz, Caryn Achaibar, Chanise Williams, Collen Kane
Bottom Row (Lto R): Tylor Aun, David Wells, Shannon Murphy, Jalen Davidson, Emmanuel Lyons, Laura Rebolet, Alec Andrew, Michael Risacher