My friends, I haven’t much of pretty Chautauqua to post today. I was in tech rehearsals for over 12 hours yesterday, didn’t get home until after midnight, and will be back at it today. Normally, I tend to stay away from the first day or so of tech rehearsals as those rehearsals are about lights, sound, costumes, and entrances and exits – and not about my end of things. But since the tech/dress time is so short and the available time to help the actors in this phase equally short, I’ve been on hand. The director is letting me grab actors as needed to give them a note or two. It’s an efficient way of working, I must say.
But it makes for a very long day.
And, in any spare time I had, it rained.
I love this theater. It’s one of the oldest buildings in Chautauqua and was a lecture hall at one time. A few years back – not sure how many – it was redesigned and it’s now a beautiful theater. It’s almost church-like in the interior. I’ll try to grab a shot or two this week.
Needless to say, I’m tired. But I slept in today so I’m good to go.
Our Town. To my mind, this is the perfect play. And the most profound.
So many people, including myself at one time, tend to think of it as a ‘high school’ play. Or as something dated and maybe slightly hokey.
That could not be further from the truth.
Thornton Wilder explores love and life and marriage and birth and death in the fictional setting of Grovers Corners, New Hampshire. The set is bare bones. The story is narrated by a character called the Stage Manager. The characters spring to life as the Stage Manager ‘conducts’ the action. And through this incredibly profound microscope of a play, we explore fundamental life experiences. There’s not one issue in the play that doesn’t strike a chord within the audience. There’s nothing superfluous. There’s no excess. There’s only heart and soul and the mysteries of life and death.
I cry every time I read it or see it.
The last act, which takes place in a graveyard, is stunning. It raises questions about death. What happens when we shed this ‘mortal coil?’ How and where do we go, if we go anywhere at all? What about those left behind?
All of us have experienced loss. I had to cope with loss at a fairly young age, when two of the children I babysat died from different cancers. I’ve lost friends who died too young. I’ve lost friends to suicide. A student of mine was murdered in a drive-by shooting. I’ve lost more friends than I count to AIDS. I’ve lost aunts and uncles and grandparents. I lost my brother. And I lost my mother.
Through it all, just like every person on earth, I’ve contemplated the mystery of death – and the fear of death. What happens? Is there more than this earthly existence?
The Stage Manager speaks of the dead experiencing a ‘weaning’ away from earthly concerns.
I don’t know anything for sure. None of us do. But the genius of Our Town is that we are taken on a journey through watching the fictional town of Grovers Corners and its inhabitants, a journey that leaves us deeply moved and not-quite-the-same as before.
When Don was in this play last fall, I was terribly moved and shaken and tearful at the end. And now, I’m feeling that way almost every day.
There’s nothing more important, is there?
If you ever have a chance to see a production of Our Town – go.
New post up on Just Let Me Finish This Page.