Theatre Arts presents classic play Our Town

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


A cast of 17 actors will portray an old, yet timeless, message with the production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. The play, with its turn of the century setting, urges the audience to regard everyday life in a different light.

Tamara McGinnis, assistant professor of English, is directing the play with some fresh aspects -- developing talent, unique audience seating, and pantomime.

While seven cast members have previous drama experience with the school, most are either new to acting or new to the Corban theater arts group. McGinnis and assistant director, Jason Merrel, take the opportunity to mold new talent during rehearsals.

The small town setting of the play lends itself well to an intimate, community feeling. Thus, both audience and actors will be seated on stage as a “theatre in the round” with 200 chairs set up on stage, engaging spectators closely with the actors’ dialogue.

Wilder wrote the play with a minimal amount of staging. Having few or no props, actors use a lot of pantomime throughout the three-act play.

“This presents a real acting challenge,” says McGinnis. “It adds a whole other level to the play.” 

For young and seasoned actors alike, pantomime proves a difficult task, especially in depicting ordinary actions in the early 1900s. McGinnis had to explain to the young actors how to turn on water, not by faucet but by a hand pump; to cook, not by turning a knob but by stoking the fire beneath; and to lead a horse by its bridle — all at the right level, of course.

Three main characters guide the audience through a story of growing up, dreams and reality, life and death in the small town of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. Rachel Ost and Bill DeHaven portray a young couple, Emily Webb and George Gibbs, respectively. Scott Kersey portrays the stage manager. Other characters include the couple’s parents and siblings, town milkman, choirmaster, undertaker, and occupants of the town cemetery.

Emily asks a key question in Act III, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?” The stage manager answers, “Saints and poets, maybe.” Offstage, Ost joins that enlightened group with her own response, “Carpe diem! Seize the day! Which doesn’t mean live however you want. It means savor each moment, treasure everything.” Wilder would have approved.

Our Town will be presented a number of times, due to the limited on-stage seating. A matinee performance will be offered on Nov. 8 at 10 a.m. with evening performances following on Nov. 9-10 and Nov. 15-17 at 7 p.m. All performances will be held in the Psalm Performing Arts Center.

The matinee is geared particularly to high school students since it is offered during school hours with an intermission break for lunch, available for $3. Tickets for the matinee are $6 for a student group of 10 or more. Teachers need to call ahead to reserve for their classes.

Ticket prices for evening performances for students and senior adults are $8 and $10 for adults. To make a reservation, purchase tickets, or if you have questions, call (503) 375-7035.

  • Rachel Ost and Bill DeHaven pantomime a scene at the soda fountain in during their courtship. They portray a young couple who experience love, life, and death over time in a small American town.

  • Theatre arts students Bethany Caldwell and Bill DeHaven (foreground), Caleb Crossman and Erica Martin (center), and Rachel Ost (background) rehearse a scene from Act I of “Our Town.”  It will be presented  in six performances beginning November 8 with a matinee and evening performances following.

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