‘Our Town’ packs powerful message about life
Story and photos by Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
For stage manager Jennifer Estrada, the message of Ethington Theatre’s “Our Town” is both poignant and personal.
“The show talks a lot about living life to the fullest and how every minute could be your last,” Estrada said. “I’m a senior graduating in December, so it’s even more sentimental for me.”
Our Town, which follows the loves and lives of Emily and George of Grover’s Corners, N.H., from 1899 to 1913, is an intimate experience that packs a powerful reminder: Pay attention to the wonderful things in life — before it is too late.
“As a parent, it’s hard to get through without weeping,” said director Michael Kary, College of Fine Arts and Production instructor. “Coming from this side, all that time is gone, but now I have kids and I want to hug them and open their eyes and let them know that I love them because I never know when my final comment will come.”
The 1938 play by American playwright Thornton Wilder is the second Pulitzer Prize winner in a row that COFAP has produced, following the musical political satire, “Of Thee I Sing.”
Our Town is unusual in that students hold key leadership positions, a criterion for entering the prestigious Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in February. GCU’s 2015 production of “Scapin” was selected as an entrant last season.
Our Town’s student designer team includes Laynie Nelson, set design and costume; Armani Randolph, lighting, and Madison Kesterson, hair and makeup.
It’s a play without scenery, props, walls or a curtain, and that’s on purpose. “It’s super innovative,” Kary said. “It was revolutionary for American theater.”
The challenge was designing it so it doesn’t merely look blank, Kary said. Despite the lack of physical elements, the play is set in a small town, up a mountaintop, inside a soda shop, and even in the world of the dead, which Kary describes as a “purgatory-like place where we get to hear what the dead are thinking about the living.”
Assistant stage designer Jennifer Lang, a freshman, said the actors act out the props and furniture.
“It’s fun to work on a show where everything is pantomimed,” she said. “So much depends on the actors.”
Kesterson was faced with making characters look older without benefit of age makeup or adding gray to the hair. She said hairstyles and facial hair will signify maturation. “It’s different because it’s a period show,” Kesterson said.
In today’s society, it has become the norm for many people to stare at screens, whether on a smart phone, computer or TV. Our Town reminds the viewer to put down the screens and look up to see what’s right in front of us.
Principal cast members include:
Stage manager/narrator: Brenna Warren
The narrator is the guide through Grover’s Corners and speaks directly to the audience.
George Gibbs: Hayden Domenico
The boy next door who matures from irresponsible teen to father, husband and farmer.
Emily Webb Gibbs: Sarah Schalick
We follow her from her girlhood through her wedding, life and death.
This week: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Nov. 18-19, 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20
Next week: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Nov. 25-26, 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27
Tickets are available here. Students get tickets free with ID.
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.