Corbett Childrens Theater stages Thornton Wilders Our Town

It’s easy to take the little things for granted. But when you take a step back, it’s the little things that are most significant.

This is the premise of Thornton Wilder’s beloved play, “Our Town,” opening Friday, April 19, at Corbett Children’s Theater.

“One of the reasons I’ve always loved it is the important message of really paying attention,” said Angel Williams, production assistant. “We notice the dramatic and exciting things, but the things we really miss are the small moments of life.”

Set in the fictional town of Grover’s Corners, N.H., during the early 1900s, “Our Town” paints a portrait of everyday life. From 1901 to 1913, the narrator, referred to as the stage manager, details moments of life and death in the small town.

Ben Johnson, 16, a home-schooled junior, plays the stage manager. For the first time in his experience of 20 shows, his character breaks the fourth wall, with him talking to the audience throughout the play.

“It’s been really weird learning to interact with the audience,” Johnson said. “I’m doing everything I’ve been told not to do.”

Johnson described the cast as a “happy, fun-loving, close-knit family” and said the cast members further bonded through the play’s themes.

“Pay attention to everything,” Johnson said. “Don’t get caught up doing little things that don’t matter. Have lunch with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Take your kids out to play.”

Emma Stewart, 13, a seventh-grader at Gordon Russell Middle School, who plays Emily, described the play as really realistic and deep.

“It’s not over-the-top,” she said. “Anyone who comes to see it can relate to at least some of the characters. The message is living is great. Most of the time we don’t realize that. I hope when they’re done watching it they’ll think of it as more of a special thing we get to do.”

For Corbett High seniors Trey Smith, 18, and Logan McGown, 18, the play — their last in high school — has been particularly poignant.

After battling a stomach issue in March that forced him to stay home from school and be in and out of the hospital, Smith wasn’t sure he’d be able to appear in the play as Charles Webb, editor of the Grover’s Corners Sentinel. His good friend McGown stepped up to be an understudy.

“I hope the audience’s eyes are opened,” Smith said. “That they can see once it’s gone, nobody knows what’s next or what happens beyond mortal life. You have to savor it while you’re here. The play is elegant in its simplicity and portrayal of everyday life.

“It’s really worth it to be immersed in this family of friends,” he said. “Even if it hurts, so what. I am here with my friends. I am happy and it’s beyond worth it to be back.”

McGown noted that Corbett shares many qualities with the fictional Grover’s Corners.

“Our town is really radiant,” he said. “It’s a small little town where everybody knows everybody and there’s definitely that community feeling.”

Williams said the play spurred the actors to look deep inside themselves for character development. She said the students had a lack of applause for themselves and wanted it for each other.

“They understood they didn’t get to fall back on costumes, music or comedy — just on themselves and each other.”

“Our Town” was first staged at McCarter Theater in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1938. It went on to Broadway, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The Corbett production runs through Saturday, April 27.

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