First produced in 1938, the Pulitzer-Prize winning Our Town has become an American stage treasure. The play – Wilder’s best-known and most frequently performed work - reveals the ordinary lives of the people in the small town of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire. Our Town defies most conventional theatrical genres - it is neither a comedy nor a tragedy, neither a romance nor a farce. It is, rather, a contemplative work and richly timeless commentary on nothing less than the tragicomedy of human existence.Read more
ACT I: Daily Life
STAGE MANAGER: “Y’know—Babylon once had two million people in it, and all we know about ‘em is the names of the kings and some copies of wheat contracts . . . and contracts for the sale of slaves. Yet every night all those families sat down to supper, and the father came home from his work, and the smoke went up the chimney, — same as here . . . this is the way we were . . . in our growing up and in our marrying and in our living and in our dying . . .”
On an early morning in late spring, our play, our story, Our Town, begins. In a little town, between several majestic trees, drenched in the smell of heliotrope, the stories of 2,642 citizens begin and end. Among them is the story of Mrs. Gibbs, who dreams of traveling to another country. Her young neighbor, Emily Webb, wonders, “Am I pretty enough . . . to get anybody . . . to get people interested in me?” Dr. Gibbs, Mrs. Gibbs’ husband of many years, struggles to help his son, George, to grow into a responsible young man. George toils over his math homework. Even Constable Warren concerns himself with the fate of the town drunk. These are the characters of Our Town, as introduced to us in “Grover’s Corners; Sutton County; New Hampshire; United States of America; Continent of North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the Mind of God.” And yet, their dreams, their hopes, and their conversations around the dinner table seem not so different from our own.
ACT II: Love and Marriage
GEORGE: “So I guess this is an important talk we’ve been having.” On the morning of his wedding, George Gibbs is a bundle of energy. His bride-to-be, Emily Webb, is fast asleep in her bed next door. The sun has risen and set many times since we last encountered these two young residents of Grover’s Corners and the rest of its inhabitants. Everyone in town is in preparation for the marriage-to-be, and each approaches the impending ceremony with varying emotions, excitements and fears. Regardless of their tears, their joys and their toils, however, all seem aware of the significance of this event, that part of the circle of life that “almost everybody in the world” takes part in someday, or so the Stage Manager says. Emily and George find in one another someone with whom each can be honest about their hopes and dreams, with whom thousands of conversations can be held, and with whom they won’t be lonely. And what can be happier than that?
ACT III: Death and Beyond
STAGE MANAGER: “Now there are some things we all know, but we don’t take’m out and look at’m very often. We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars ... everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”
Some time has passed since the wedding of Emily and George, and though much has progressed, the Stage Manager recounts, “on the whole, things don’t change much around here.” At the cemetery, a new plot has been dug. The newly deceased is Emily Webb, having died of complications during the birth of her second child with George. Emily watches her own funeral take place in the company of those other spirits who have been “weaned from the earth,” including her mother-in-law, Mrs. Gibbs. Emily questions the nature of whence she came, what she is now and then, and whether or not she should go back. She revisits a special moment of her childhood. She stands by transfixed as George visits her grave. And, somewhere along the line, Emily realizes something about life that she says could never have been realized during life. Sleep comes over Grover’s Corners, the stars continue their “old crisscross journeys in the sky,” and time moves on, as it always does.
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