Little Theatre kicks off new season with award-winning play

“Our Town” is about living in a community and living in a family and the moments that make up a life, says director Steve Iwanski.

The upcoming production of Thornton Wilder’s 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama will kick off Greenwood Little Theatre’s 2018-19 season. Performances will be held at 7 p.m. from Thursday to next Saturday and at 2 p.m. next Sunday.

The play is set in 1904 in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire.

“We get very specific information about this town and this place,” said Iwanski. “Ironically, it’s so specific, and yet when we watch the action in the town, it’s generic to any small town in the country, and I think that’s why this play has endured.”

“Our Town” is a metatheatrical play, and one of the main characters is the stage manager, who will be played by Cameron Griffin. Griffin has the most lines in the play and also has several monologues where he directly addresses the audience.

“He’s essentially the storyteller of the whole thing,” said Griffin. “He sets the scene and kind of introduces his character and also takes some time to say some stuff about the town, and he frames the whole thing.”

The play will feature a minimalist set.

“Metatheatrical means, from the very first moment, it’s a play that’s aware of itself as a play,” said Iwanski. “It’s not trying to draw you into its world and make you pretend. It tells you at the beginning, ‘We’re all just people in a room pretending.’”

Iwanski said the first lines in the script say, “No curtain. No props. No scenery.”

“The audience when they walk in see a naked stage half lit,” he said.

The performance will begin with Griffin saying, “You’re about to watch ‘Our Town.’”

For a scene where someone might be pouring water in a cup, there’s no actual cup or pitcher of water. The actor, however, will mime the action without the use of props.

“Thornton Wilder wrote this in the 1930s, and he wrote it as a reaction against realist theater and the remnants of the Victorian age, which was all about elaborate sets and elaborate costumes and special effects,” said Iwanski. “For our production, we’ve maintained that. It’s folding chairs, and everything else you just have to imagine.”

Although the characters are in costume, the audience will have to visualize everything else.

Iwanski said the first time he saw the play was when he was in college.

“I didn’t know anything about it,” he said

But after it was over, “You walk out of it changed. It rewired my brain,” he said.

The play features themes such as the meaning of love, life and death, small-town American life, and the universal human experience.

“It’s a story about a small town and the people who live in it,” said Griffin.

The first act of “Our Town” focuses on the “Daily Life” of Grover’s Corners, and the audience will be introduced to the Gibbs family and the Webb family — and also some of the residents of the town.

The story focuses on Emily Webb, who will be played by 13-year-old Julie Day Warren, and George Gibbs, who will be played by 16-year-old Brendan Pernell. They start out in the first act as teenagers who will eventually fall in love.

In the second act, “Love and Marriage,” three years have passed, and Emily and George prepare to wed.

The third act of the play, “Death and Eternity,” is set nine years later, and Emily has died.

Iwanski said that the play will come full circle in the third act.

Julie Day said she enjoys playing her character, Emily.

“She grows up, she gets married, and then she dies, and then she talks a lot when she’s dead,” she said. “I like that there are a lot of different emotions.”

She also said it’s fun to transition from playing a kid to playing an adult. Typically the role of Emily Webb is played by a woman in her 20s who pretends to be younger in the first act.

Julie Day and her counterpart, Brendan, will do the opposite.

“We have a very young couple. Nevertheless, they’ll be very impressive,” said Iwanski.

The play will also include some comedic parts.

Taylor Buchanan will play Howie Newsome, who is a fixture of Grover’s Corners. Buchanan said his character is the funny one.

“He is a very simple character,” he said. “He is the town milkman. Everybody trusts him about the weather. He is a meteorologist, as well, in a funny way. Everybody asks him about how the weather is. It’s a small town, like Greenwood.”

Iwanski said the play is a challenge for him and the cast members. “But it’s a fun thing to do here,” he said.

With a cast mixed with GLT veterans longtime theatergoers will immediately recognize, several local teenagers and a couple of adults who are making their Greenwood Little Theatre debuts, Iwanski said “I think it’s the perfect community theater production.”

The show is free for current Greenwood Little Theatre members. Tickets for non-members cost $10 for students (age 21 and younger) and $15 for adults. Visit greenwoodlittletheatre.com or call or text (662) 947-1075 to reserve seats.

Alicia Dallas