By Caroline Forde
Westminster College of the Arts (WCA) takes center stage for the first time this semester with its production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, playing in the Yvonne Theater Feb. 26 through March 2.
This period piece, which originally premiered just up the road at the McCarter Theater in Princeton, covers a 12-year history of a love story and the appreciation of life in a quaint New England town at the end of the 1800s. Trent Blanton, assistant professor of theater and director of Our Town, explained the premise of the play.
“Our Town is the story of the life in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, at the turn of the 20th century,” Blanton said. “Through the exploration of the residents’ everyday lives, Thornton Wilder examines the human condition and shows us just how special it is to be alive.”
Connor Fallon, a senior musical theater major, portrays George Gibbs, a role that Blanton played in 1992 as the male lead in the show when he was in college. Fallon explained that the character of Gibbs is considered to be a favorite among the people from the town of Grover’s Corners.
“He is a loveable, likeable character who has a sense of wonder about him,” Fallon said. “He’s the president of the senior class, the star of the baseball team and a family guy. He’s the town hero.”
The show revolves around Gibbs and his childhood love, Emily Webb.
“He loves her and would do anything for her,” Fallon said. “He’s a hopeless romantic. The show is really about the two of them falling in love and their life together.”
Wilder’s work is considered a classic piece of literature, which Fallon believes is a reason for students to come see the show.
“If you haven’t had to read the play for school, it’s a beautiful piece of theater that I’d encourage people to come see,” Fallon said. “The whole show is really cool, because there are very minimalistic sets and props. We use miming. All the costumes are strictly period pieces, so it’s a really cool way to look at how life was back then. It’s a step into history.”
According to Fallon, the play has a very simple message.
“What really sums up the play is that it’s about life,” he said. “It’s about being human.”
Blanton agrees that the overall theme deals with the simplicity of living and the wonder of human lifestyle.
“Our Town does what no other play accomplishes in such a moving, human fashion,” Blanton said. “It shows the beauty of the human existence — the beauty that exists, not only in the most dramatic points in our lives, but in our everyday routines. It reminds us to stop, take in and appreciate what a magnificent thing it is to be alive.”
Although the show takes place more than 100 years ago, Blanton thinks it is still easily relatable to audiences today.
“The play illuminates truths about the human experience that were true thousands of years ago through today,” Blanton said. “These commonalities will probably be true through the end of time as well.”
Fallon is thrilled that his final performance on the Rider stage will be as George Gibbs.
“I’ve been in a lot of things at Rider, but this is my first major role, and I’m very excited,” Fallon said. “It’s a little bittersweet, but this role is a good way to end my senior year and to go out with a bang.”
Blanton is also excited to be directing such an iconic show.
“It is my favorite play of all time and I am fortunate to be able to share this with the Rider community,” he said.
Rider is buzzing with excitement as well. Jessica Pappalardo, sophomore theater performance major, is just as thrilled as Blanton.
“As a member of Rider’s theater department, perhaps it’s a little biased of me to say seeing live theater is important, but it is,” Pappalardo said. “Our Town is going to be a wonderful insight on the kind of training we receive in our program. They’re going to put on a really fantastic show. When the curtain rises, the audience will really enjoy what they see.”