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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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3,061421,852 (3.67)96
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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       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 |
I keep starting and then losing this book. It seems I'll never get through it!
  engpunk77 | Aug 10, 2015 |
I picked up this book because a talented young neighbor of mine invited me to the production in which he had several parts. I found the story extraordinary in its ordinariness, tied together sharply by the stage manager with a smart narrative in which each act was referenced repeatedly by another. I then enjoyed the play, and its adherence to and divergence from the script. Overall, a very pleasant cultural experience. ( )
  MartinBodek | Jun 11, 2015 |
  kutheatre | Jun 7, 2015 |
Profound. Ground-breaking. ‘Our Town’ is sometimes disliked because of its simplicity, but I think that misses the point. Wilder made conscious, artistic decisions to avoid a lot of adornment and action because that would have taken away from his messages about the human condition. Putting the phases of life into a skeletal framework and adding occasional cosmic and prescient perspectives are what force the audience to see how brief our lives are, and from there introspection can begin. As early critic Brooks Atkinson of the New York Times put it, the play “transmuted the simple events of human life into universal reverie” which contained nothing less than “a fragment of the immortal truth.”

Donald Margulies points out in the introduction to this edition that Capra’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ owes a great deal to ‘Our Town’, without expanding on that. I don’t disagree, but I think that while they ask some of the same questions, such as what’s the meaning of this life and do we make a difference being here, Capra’s answers are positive and joyful and sentimental, whereas Wilder is on the fence, or at least, he lets us interpret. It’s in our power to some extent, but we really need to open our eyes to appreciate what we have and the people around us in our everyday lives. However, our lives are going to be all-too-brief and all-too-small in the grand scheme of things regardless. And yet, he says, “There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.” We are both meaningful and meaningless at the same time.

This is not ‘Our Town’, it’s ‘Our Lives’, or ‘Our Humanity’.

The first audiences that saw ‘Our Town’ performed had lived through WWI, were just getting through the great depression, and saw the world careening towards WWII. They were living in the age of radio, not television or the internet. I think the conditions were right for such a play, and audience members responded in many cases by openly weeping at the end. It’s harder to translate such a quiet, introspective play to the present world, which is focused more on action and movement, and to youth especially, because it helps to have perspective that comes with having lived more of life (and I don’t say that to be snarky). As with Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’, it may evoke the reaction that “not enough happens”, but think about it.

Lastly, a note on the connection discovered to the book I read previously, which was Erica Jong’s ‘How to Save Your Own Life’ (which I thought would be quite a stretch) – Jong thinly veils Henry Miller in her character Kurt Hammer, and in the notes to ‘Our Town’ it points out that the first New York performance on February 4, 1938 was held in none other but the Henry Miller Theater. Go figure. ( )
1 vote gbill | May 9, 2015 |
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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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

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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