‘Our Town’ Returns to UNO after 25 Years
September 26th, 2017
Omaha, NE—UNO Theatre’s performance season begins tomorrow with Thornton Wilder’s 1938 play Our Town, directed by Professor Scott Glasser. Our Town was last performed at UNO 25 years ago, directed by Doug Paterson, and it was the first play to ever show at the Weber Fine Arts Building.
Our Town is a story of small town America set in fictional Grover’s Corners New Hampshire, and it’s a reflection on family life, personal roles and community identity. The cast comprises students, faculty, and other local actors. Glasser explained what informs his interpretation of the classic play.
Glasser: Doing the play at our current time, essentially we’re in global crises: weather, climate, climate change, arguments about nuclear weapons, creating enemies even when they’re not there is always a part of what we’re doing, and there is social protest that is part of that. A very alive part of it that tries to be suppressed, and since this play is about the way we are as human beings, I couldn’t divorce myself from the current times. If there’s one thing that the production has sort of hung on is the idea of community—all the different meanings of that word.
Our Town’s setting is quaint, but the play is noted for its innovative staging and storytelling techniques. The Stage Manager acts as narrator, engaging with the audience and breaking the fourth wall. And as for the stage craft, there is isn’t much there. Wilder preferred a simple stage, focusing instead on the characters’ interaction and making Grover’s Corners a sort of anywhere.
Glasser: We say that we are in a UNO theater revolutionary season, and then you go to our town, really? But at the time that it was produced, when it was produced on Broadway, it was unlike anything else that had been on Broadway—all the experimental productions that there had been of Eugene O’Neill and Americans before that were far between, and were generally off Broadway or at universities. This one opened and was revolutionary in its way of doing theater where it stripped everything away from the characters and their language and the words that they were using, and it allowed the audience to imagine the rest of the production and as a way of connecting it to their own lives.
Glasser’s production emphasizes community, specifically UNO’s diverse ethnic makeup, and you might see some audience interaction.
Glasser: They do community rituals in the play. There’s a wedding, there’s a funeral, there’s breakfast, there’s school, there’s coming back from work, there’s husband wife ritual—
Glasser: Courtship as a ritual—really a prescribed ritual—and how do you deal with the person who’s having trouble getting through life as a community? How do you deal with that? So it keeps having these little versions of us dealing with each other, and I decided that a frame could be, since the they sing in the play some hymns, it would be interesting to have different cultures framing the play with music from their own culture. What we end up having is three groups: one from Oman, one from Japan and one from China. They sing songs from their culture and their language as an extension of the community, so the world is the frame around the community of the play.
Our Town will run from September 27th to the 30th and October 4th to the 7th. Catch previews of the show tomorrow and Thursday. All performances are at 7:30pm at the Weber Fine Arts Building on UNO’s campus. For tickets, visit the box office in the Weber Fine Arts Building or search “UNO Theatre Productions” online.
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