Using a cast entirely comprised of alumni and members of the community, Long Wharf Theatre begins its 50th anniversary season with Our Town by Thornton Wilder, directed by Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein, from October 8 through November 2, 2014 on the Claire Tow Stage in the C. Newton Schenck III Theatre. Opening night is October 15, 2014.
Tickets are $25-$75. The theatre’s 50th anniversary season community partner is The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.
The cast includes James Andreassi (Joe Stoddard), Leon Addison Brown (Editor Webb), Robert Dorfman (Simon Stimson), Mateo Gomez (Sam Craig), JoJo Gonzalez (Howie Newsome), Jenny Leona (Emily Webb), Rey Lucas (George Gibbs), Ann McDonaugh (Mrs. Soames), Phil McGlaston (Constable Warren), Aidan McMillan (Joe Crowell), Dermot McMillan (Si Crowell), Linda Powell (Mrs. Gibbs), Christina Rouner (Mrs. Webb), Steve Routman (Professor Willard), Namumba Santos (Wally Webb), Don Sparks (Dr. Gibbs), Myra Lucretia Taylor (The Stage Manager), and Remsen Welsh (Rebecca Gibbs). Every cast member has previously appeared in a Long Wharf Theatre production. In addition, Edelstein has invited members of the greater New Haven community to appear as the townspeople of Grover’s Corners.
The creative team includes Eugene Lee (sets), Emily Rebholz (costumes), James F. Ingalls (lights), John Gromada (sound), Jonathan Berryman (musical direction), and Hope Rose Kelly (stage manager.)
A work of humanity and warmth, Our Town transports us to Grover’s Corners, a place of secret wishes and disappointments, loves and losses, where the people we encounter are shockingly like the ones in our own lives. Meet Emily and George. They’ve grown up together in their small New England town, falling in love in a surprisingly complicated way. Their lives provide the lens through which the story is told, a story that focuses on a village but encompasses the eternal, finding the world in a grain of sand. “Indeed the play’s success across cultural borders around the world attests to its being something much greater than an American play: it is a play that captures the universal experience of being alive,” wrote the playwright Donald Margulies in his preface to the play.
“Our Town is one of the greatest plays written by an American in the 20th century. It is a profound meditation on life and death. The world of Our Town has changed since Wilder first wrote the play. Our production will endeavor to capture what our town is today, reflecting our city, our country, and our lives,” said Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein.
Wilder’s inspirations for Our Town are myriad, ranging from his own archeological study in Rome in 1920, to conversations with his family, to the sort of experimental theatre in which he was interested. Writers like Gertrude Stein and James Joyce influenced his work as well. “Wilder’s Our Town was shaped by his imagination and memory, his experience with family and friends, his love of country, his concern about world events, and his passion for the theater,” wrote Penelope Niven in her biography “Thornton Wilder — A Life.”
Perhaps the most quoted line about the play comes from Wilder himself in 1957: “The play is an attempt to find a value above all price for the smallest events in our daily life.” But Wilder wrote an addendum to that statement in the 1960s. “But that is absurd. The generations of men follow upon one another in apparently endless repetition. They are born; they grow up; they marry; they have children; they die. Where shall we seek a “value above all price” in these recurrent situations? … In the last act of Our Town the author places upon the stage a character who – like the member of the audience – partakes of the ‘smallest events of our daily life’ and is also a spectator of them. She learns that each life – though it appears to be a repetition among millions – can be felt to be inestimably precious. Though the realization of it is present to us seldom, briefly and incommunicably. At that moment there are no walls, no chairs, no tables: all is inward. Our true life is in the imagination and in the memory.”
No American writer has been as successful as Thornton Wilder as both a dramatist and a serious novelist. Wilder was born in Madison, Wisconsin in 1897. Wilder lived an itinerant childhood due to his father’s work as a diplomat, although the family did live briefly in New Haven for a time. He attended Oberlin College and graduated from Yale in 1920. Using the proceeds from The Bridges of San Luis Rey, he built a home for his family on Deepwood Drive in Hamden. He used the home as a base of operations for the rest of his life, although he spent as many as 200 days a year away, needed the time away as inspiration for his writing.
His novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey, a bestseller, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928. Two of his full-length plays, Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth, received Pulitzer Prizes in 1938 and 1943, respectively. The Matchmaker saw Broadway success both on its own, running for close to 500 performances, and in its adaptation to the hit musical Hello, Dolly! Wilder also was an accomplished teacher, speaker, and actor (he regularly played The Stage Manager in Our Town and Mr. Antrobus in The Skin of Our Teeth). Wilder died in 1975 and is buried alongside his family in Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hamden.
For more information about Long Wharf Theatre, visit www.longwharf.org or call 203-787-4282.
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Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia starred as Carole Barbara in Lorey Hayes’ Power Play at the 2013 National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., with Pauletta Pearson Washington, Roscoe Orman, and made her jazz vocalist debut in Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz “LADY” at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York. She is profiled in Jade Magazine.
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