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Our Town : A Play in Three Acts, Acting…

Our Town : A Play in Three Acts, Acting Edition (original 1938; edition 1939)

by Thornton Wilder, Frank Craven (Adapter)

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3,155461,778 (3.67)100
Title:Our Town : A Play in Three Acts, Acting Edition
Authors:Thornton Wilder
Other authors:Frank Craven (Adapter)
Info:Coward-McCann, Inc w/Samuel French, Inc (1939), Edition: 1st Ed, Paperback, 117 pages
Collections:Your library

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Our Town by Thornton Wilder (1938)


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Well, first of all, it's not universal. Not everyone feels the need to go 'two by two' for just one example. Second, since there's almost no scenery, almost no direction, isn't reading it almost as good as seeing it? Who's to say which performance is authentic: the one in your mind, the one in my mind, the one at your high school a few years ago, or a professional one in the 40s?

So, imo, my opinion is reasonably valid. And my opinion is, it's very smart, with some bits that truly move one, but it's not the classic one would imagine it to be, if one bases one's judgement on how many times it's been performed. I opine that the reason it's performed so often is because it's easy to do so. Hardly any set, and hardly any emotion to mess up. Teens in a town the size of Grover's Corners can do an adequate job, thankyouverymuch.

Maybe, someday, if I see a lovingly-done performance and read carefully-written criticism, I'll appreciate it more. For now, I liked but didn't love it. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
I was in this!!!!! ( )
  katieloucks | Feb 26, 2016 |
George: “Ma, I don’t want to grow old. Why’s everybody pushing me so?”
Emily: “Why can’t I stay for a while just as I am? Let’s go away…”
The groom and the bride lament to their respective parents on their wedding day – that universal desire at some points in a person’s life – to stay young, if only time would stand still just for a moment.

“Our Town” is an engaging and unpretentious play both in story and in style. The plot is life – from the daily lives, to love and marriage, and finally to death covering 13 years, ending in 1913. (Notice anything?) While the pace of life is slower than ours, the town folks, complete with a town drunk, is a comprehensible Norman Rockwell kind of mix. The stage setting is equally guileless, with sparse furniture, and a narrator as the stage manager speaking to the audience. Reading the words, I recreated the entire play on stage in my mind.

The most intriguing and I assume to be groundbreaking at the time of its first production in 1938 is its messages of death. It’s one thing to be coming out of WWI, having survived the Great Depression, and at the cusp of entering WWII, but it’s quite another to have the normalcy of death presented on stage. The affinity that the audience develops towards the cast members is instead affronted with an assault of reality that one comes to the theater to escape. I love this quote from Thornton where he challenged the norm of theatre then:

“In his 1957 introduction ‘Three Plays’, Wilder wrote of the loss of theatergoing pleasure he began to experience in the decade before writing ‘Our Town’, when he ‘cease to believe in the stories [he] saw presented there… The theatre was not only inadequate, it was evasive… I found the word for it: it aimed to be soothing. The tragic had no heat; the comic had no bite; the social criticism failed to indict us with responsibility.’”

“Our Town” is not meant to be soothing. While the ladies of the 1938 “emerged red-eyed, swollen faced, and mascara-stained”, I, slightly hardened, felt the emotions slowly seep through my body as I processed Thornton’s words. The dead repeatedly emphasized the living does not SEE their lives, blindly living their lives, not in a meaningful way, never comprehending. The living does not understand. It’s as though life is wasted on the living!

In today’s time, I sit in sold out theaters of family friendly shows that leave me drenched in artificial sweetener. Or I sit in partially filled theaters of heavy-subject shows where I exit feeling as though I was smacked upside the head, and I still want to discuss it endlessly. I choose the latter. I choose “Our Town”, or perhaps “Our Lives”.

Some Quotes:

On Life or On Death? – you decide:
“You’ve got to love life to have life, and you’ve got to have life to love life… It’s what they call a vicious circle.”
“Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.”
“Yes, now you know. Now you know! That’s what it was to be alive. To move about in a cloud of ignorance; to go up and down trampling on the feelings of those… of those about you. To spend and waste time as though you had a million years. To be always at the mercy of one self-centered passion, or another. Now you know – that’s the happy existence you wanted to go back to. Ignorance and blindness.” ( )
1 vote varwenea | Feb 13, 2016 |
This is a true classic. I'm glad I've seen it performed because I believe it is more powerful than simply reading it. (But, in general, that can be said of all plays.) Although it takes place in a small New Hampshire town pre WW I, I find much of it is universal and still relevant today.

We had planned to discuss this book with a group of 8th-grade girls from an inner-city school for at-risk girls. But two weeks before the scheduled book club their teacher informed me that she preferred the girls read and discuss Steinbeck's [The Pearl]. I was still glad I took time to read "Our Town." ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 9, 2016 |

       In a loud voice to the stage manager
I can't. I can't go on. It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another.
       She breaks down sobbing.
I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back—up the hill—to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look.
Good-by. Good-by world. Good-by Grover's Corners…Mama and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking…and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths…and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anyone to realize you.
       She looks toward the stage manager and asks abruptly, through her tears:
Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?

The saints and poets, maybe—they do some.

[Our Town], a play by Thornton Wilder, was written and first performed in 1938. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for drama that year. (Wilder had received a Pulitzer in 1927 for his novel [The Bridge of San Luis Rey] and got a second drama Pulitzer in 1942 for [The Skin of Our Teeth].) Our Town has been filmed for theatrical release, filmed for television, and performed on stage countless times—on and off Broadway, in regional theaters, in amateur, college, and high school productions.*

In three acts, the play shows us the everyday lives of the citizens of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire between 1901 and 1913. The first act, set in 1901, introduces us to the Webbs and Gibbses, next-door neighbors, and particularly to teenagers George Gibbs and Emily Webb. In act two, set three years later, George and Emil are married. In act three, nine years later, we witness the burial of Emily who has died in childbirth.

The play is notable for its minimalist staging, following Wilder's dictums: "No curtain. No scenery." The audience is confronted by a bare stage. Wilder's stage directions: "Presently the Stage Manager, hat on and pipe in mouth, enters and begins placing a table and three chairs downstage right. He also places a low bench at the corner of what will be the Webb house, left…As the house lights go down he has finished setting the stage and leaning against the right proscenium pillar watches the late arrivals in the audience. When the auditorium is in complete darkness he speaks…" He identifies the town and points out the landmarks, none of which the audience can see. The milkman walks across the stage, accompanied by an imaginary horse and milk wagon. He delivers imaginary milk bottles. In the same fashion, the paperboy delivers imaginary newspapers. Mrs. Webb and Mrs. Gibb pantomime breakfast preparations in their respective imaginary kitchens. And so it goes throughout.

The play is life in microcosm, showing us how oblivious we are to the interactions of daily life, yet how those familiar events shape who we are.
  weird_O | Feb 4, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thornton Wilderprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Margulies, DonaldForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Alexander Woollcott of Castleton Township, Rutland County, Vermont
First words
This play is called "Our Town."
Emily: Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? - every, every minute?

Stage manager: No. (Pause) the saints and poets, maybe - they do some.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
This short play seems simple at first, but is actually has a lot of depth to it. It is about the typical life in the small and quaint town of Grover's Courner, New Hampshire. The characters are very genuine. The main theme of the book asks what the purpose of life is; I think the message is to enjoy the life you have and to not waste it because it will be over before we know it. Don't take life for granted. Do something with your life. I loved reading this play because of its message and the particular way the play gets that message across.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060512636, Paperback)

Our Town was first produced and published in 1938 to wide acclaim. This Pulitzer Prize–winning drama of life in the town of Grover 's Corners, an allegorical representation of all life, has become a classic. It is Thornton Wilder's most renowned and most frequently performed play.

It is now reissued in this handsome hardcover edition, featuring a new Foreword by Donald Margulies, who writes, "You are holding in your hands a great American play. Possibly the great American play." In addition, Tappan Wilder has written an eye-opening new Afterword, which includes Thornton Wilder's unpublished notes and other illuminating photographs and documentary material.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:38 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

This beautiful new edition features an eye-opening Afterword written by Tappan Wilder that includes Thornton Wilder's unpublished notes and other illuminating photographs and documentary material. Our Town was first produced and published in 1938 to wide acclaim. This Pulitzer Prize-winning drama of life in the small village of Grover's Corners, an allegorical representation of all life, has become a classic. It is Thornton Wilder's most renowned and most frequently performed play.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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