Our Town opens for Friday, Saturday performance

By: Sarah Stortz

On Friday, March 4 and Saturday, March 5, around 40 students will be showcasing their four months of hard work as they present this year’s spring show, “Our Town.”

The three-act play written by Thornton Wilder takes place in the small town of Grover’s Corner, N.H., as it follows the lives of small community members, all while simultaneously answering the question on what it means to be alive.

The show is narrated by two stage managers (senior Leo Gibson and senior Grace Gubbrud) who present the events taking place and directly address the audience.

The managers primarily focus on two teenagers named George Gibbs (senior Jonathan Kuehner) and Emily Webb (sophomore Clare Rollinger), along with their blossoming romance, which eventually develops into marriage and ultimately ends in sorrow.

The play is directed by English teacher Joe Frenna, who eagerly wanted take the show up after reading the script last summer.

¨It’s a beautiful play that I never got around to read. I opened up the first page, and it seemed so hokey that I could never continue it. When I finally sat down and read it this summer, I was in tears by the end,¨ Frenna said ¨The impact at the end makes you feel like you’ve really experienced something.¨

Senior Jonathan Kuehner, who plays one of the leading roles, is no stranger to the process of putting together a show, as he’s been involved with theater for six years.

With this show in particular, Kuehner needed to learn how to come to terms with a style of acting that he’s never experienced before.

¨I have to play really three distinct characters for the three different acts, and playing with emotions that I’ve never really played with before,¨ Kuehner said ¨I’ve always been told to find your character and bring them to life, but Mr. Frenna has really coached us to not play a character, but to be yourself in this situation. ¨

While several of the actors are familiar with working on the auditorium’s stage, it also marks the theatrical debut of just as many others, such as sophomore Clare Rollinger.

“When I initially auditioned, I honestly really wanted to get in and experience it because it’s something I’ve never done before,” Rollinger said “It really came as a shock to me when I figured out that I got a role like this.”

During her first play, Rollinger regarded her experience of being Emily as nothing but positive, though not without it’s challenges.

“Some of the hardest parts are truly becoming her at times. Getting over the fear of worrying what other people think and letting loose is what’s so great about play. You get to be someone else for awhile and have fun with it,” Rollinger said “This has been such an amazing experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.¨

“Our Town” is notorious for its reputation of being difficult to pull off well, due to its requirement of having no set and minimal props. Frenna lamented on this challenging aspect while putting the show together.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 9.04.41 AM“That felt like a real risk because you can easily hide behind tech. Set design automatically enhances any show,” Frenna said. “What [Wilder] is pretty much saying is that you can’t hide behind certain things. The audience has to imagine everything, and the actors have to make it real for them. There’s much more of a focus on the actors interacting along with the lighting and costume.”

Instead of being drawn away from the significant disadvantage, Frenna took on this play as a way to challenge himself as a director.

“Artists are risk takers. There’s no point in engaging in artistic pursuit if there’s not some element of risk to it,” Frenna said

After the final lines are muttered, another practice run of the show comes to the end, and Frenna yells at the actors to get out of their costumes to listen for his notes on their performance.

While he may be giving criticism now, Frenna showed clear delight over how far the show has come.

¨When done right, there’s going to be a big emotional connection for the audience during this play,¨ Frenna said. ¨Real life is highly reflected in this, and that’s why we go to the theater, to reconnect with our own lives. I think that people are going to walk away changed from seeing it.¨

Performance dates are Friday, March 4, and Saturday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets will cost $4 for adults and $3 for students. Activity passes are also accepted.

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